The Forgotten World Highway has just become a little less forgotten, with cell phone coverage now an option along part of it.

Spark has switched on wireless broadband and mobile services at a new cell tower in Stratford, delivering new and better coverage to the local area, including parts of SH43.

A new 4G tower has been installed on Junction Road, Pohokura, delivering better connectivity to Stratford businesses and residents.

Previously, many people in the local area were reliant on satellite technology to access broadband services and had no or poor mobile phone coverage.

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Spark's Network Lead Colin Brown said Spark is pleased to have been a part of a solution for local residents and visitors to the Stratford area.

"The new connectivity for Stratford will help to bridge the digital divide for rural communities and help the rural sector remain competitive. It will also help residents be better connected to friends, and family," Colin says.

The tower was delivered by the Rural Connectivity Group (RCG) as part of the second phase of the Rural Broadband Initiative (RBI2) and the Mobile Black Spot fund.

This programme will deliver more than 400 new towers, and mobile services from all three mobile network companies, ensuring competitive broadband services are delivered to rural customers. The towers will also be open access for wireless internet service providers to use.

"The Stratford tower provides a range of 4G services including wireless broadband and mobile data with 'over-the-top' services like video, calling and messaging apps such as WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger," says Colin.

Colin says the new cell tower would deliver mobile voice services via 4G, rather than the current 3G network used across most of New Zealand. Because of this, most customers would need a software update to their phone or, in some cases, would need to upgrade their phone. Starting in September, the Spark 4G voice calling services (known as 4G HD Calling), will initially work only on some models of phones but will be rolled out to other phones over the coming months.

By December 2022 the infrastructure built by the RCG across New Zealand will see at least 34,000 rural homes and businesses gain mobile and high-speed wireless broadband coverage.

The Rural Connectivity Group is a joint venture between Spark, Vodafone and 2degrees.