Vodafone is rolling out the red carpet to small rural communities, in the two percent of homes in New Zealand who will not be covered by Vodafone’s network, and who will now be able to apply for improved mobile coverage in their local area.
A new scheme is being funded by Vodafone specifically for those communities that would normally be too small to expect coverage and which fall outside the government’s Rural Broadband Initiative (RBI).
Vodafone’s head of community and government relations Roger Ellis encourages smaller communities to apply for the initiative.
“The scheme is designed to support small communities and those who live in rural isolation with no cell phone coverage.
These communities see the benefit in having Vodafone’s reliable, high speed coverage in their area and are keen to get on board,” says Ellis. “Vodafone is willing to explore innovative ideas with small communities that could allow us to build sites in otherwise non-commercially viable areas.”
Communities will be invited to apply during a two month period each year. Following a consultation and liaison process, it is planned that a minimum of two sites will be built each year. The cell sites will use the 900 MHz frequency which provides the broadest reach coverage from one cell site.
Communities with no existing mobile coverage who wish to benefit from this initiative must be able to meet certain criteria. The criteria include a letter of support from local MP(s), a supporting petition signed by residents, a willing land owner and support for an RMA consent.
Applications opened on 15 October and will close on 15 December 2011. A selection will be made by early January and the resulting cell sites will be planned within the following 12 months.
“We hope the new initiative will enable smaller communities, who often miss out, to have the accessibility and freedom of cell phone coverage that other New Zealanders enjoy,” says Roger Ellis.
Decisions will be based on Vodafone’s assessment of the sites positive impact on the local community, and the community’s ability to meet the required criteria. All applications will considered by Vodafone’s Community Cell Site project team.
For more information on the initiative, visit