A new wireless broadband and cellphone tower is operating in Oropi and four more are planned for the Western Bay.
The towers are being erected by Vodafone as part of the Government's Rural Broadband Initiative, which aims to deliver broadband to 252,000 rural households throughout the country at prices and levels of service comparable with urban areas. They also increase cellphone coverage in these areas.
The Oropi tower is on Oropi Rd near the intersection with McPhail Rd and will cover an estimated 410 homes and businesses in the area.
Working at one of those addresses yesterday was builder Kent Jarman. He said he had been in the area off and on for six weeks and having full cellphone coverage had made a huge difference. "For the entire time we've been here, I've had nothing, my phone was just dead. Just occasionally when I climb on the roof I'll get a text message come through but as soon as I pick my phone up the reception would go again."
Mr Jarman said he was on the roof again on Wednesday, when the tower went live, and all of a sudden got five messages "screaming through".
"All of a sudden I had five bars of reception. I'm with Vodafone, my other workers are with Telecom and their reception was better too. It's better here now than what I get where I live at the Mount."
Mr Jarman said it was hard operating as a tradesman without cellphone reception and he had been going to the neighbour's house to make calls.
Vodafone external communications manager Michelle Baguley said the Oropi tower was 30m tall.
"If we find a nice, high hill often the tower can be 25m. We have to adjust the height of the tower to provide service to the maximum number of addresses to meet our target under the Rural Broadband Initiative. In certain places, including Te Ranga, the towers have to be built higher because radio frequencies can't get through the shelter belts."
Four other towers were planned for the Western Bay in the next three years in Aongatete, Maketu, Te Ranga South and Paengaroa, and would cover 5200 homes and businesses.
Earlier this month, Pyes Pa residents expressed concern about the potential health effects of the Te Ranga South cellphone tower planned to be built near their homes.
Resident Graeme O'Neill said his property would be most affected by the structure, which would come within 120m of his newly purchased home. He said he was worried about potential health effects and how the tower would affect the resale value and the aesthetics of his home.
Planned Western Bay wireless broadband/cellphone towers
Site/Estimated coverage (number of business and homes):
Oropi (went live this week)/410.
Te Ranga South/1230.