Catlins Coverage: A joint effort to benefit the whole community
Unifone, with the help of the second phase of the rural broadband initiative (RBI2) funding, has been able to put internet infrastructure into the Catlins area, from Pounawea right down the coastline. With thanks to the local farmers, the Tautuku Block X 3C Trust, and locals, this area now has access to wireless broadband and a reliable phone service.
Getting internet to the Catlins has been a local effort. Unifone used the services of a local civil works contractor to set up the wireless broadband repeaters, as a way of supporting the local economy. The new network utilises private nearby farmland for infrastructure, with local businesses like the Whistling Frog Café now able to offer visitors internet access. Uptake is steady and the CIP funding has allowed Unifone to offer high-speed plans which has been appreciated by customers like the Whistling Frog.
The Whistling Frog is a very busy property in the middle of the Catlins with accommodation and a café. The lack of reliable connectivity was always a big problem. The accounting, booking and management systems are all in the cloud, so slow, unreliable, internet was stopping staff doing their jobs. And, you could forget streaming a movie or even watching a YouTube video - until they joined forces with Unifone.
“We also have around two to three hundred people a day needing internet as we don’t have any cell phone coverage. Our usage went from megabytes a day to terabytes a day when we upgraded to the new high-speed internet link” says Paul Bridson, owner of the Whistling Frog. “Customers are much happier now and can share their experiences here with family and friends wherever they may be in the world”. Having a local company managing the whole property from their office in Balclutha is helpful as well. Unifone is on hand to work with them on solutions, and results are fast.
As well as increasing the Catlins network, Unifone’s RBI2 funding involves increasing the internet coverage in the Clutha district, Cromwell, and Central Otago from Alexandra to Lauder. It also provides enhanced internet coverage in the rural areas around Dunedin City and North Otago.
Getting internet access and a reliable phone service to this part of Otago has been a challenge, but it’s been incredibly rewarding, and as tourist numbers in the area look to continue to increase, locals and tourists alike will benefit from the generosity hard work that the local community have put into supporting the infrastructure in the area.
This antenna on Mt Stewart, shown here, shares its windy location with nine wind turbines. It is the first of Unifone’s sites to be built under the RBI2 contract with CIP. It was built in the company’s workshop, and then bought to the site and installed there by three Unifone staff and was fully functional in one day.
News story credit: Tanya Hansen; Crown Infrastructure Partners.