The scramble to construct a cell tower in Pirongia is partly due to Spark's promise to live-stream the Rugby World Cup (RWC), which kicks off on September 20.
If the cell tower is not constructed before the tournament, local fans who want to live-stream the rugby might experience delays.
This year's broadcasting rights are owned by Spark Sport, which wrested the rights off Sky.
Because Spark's service streams over the internet rather than a satellite network, some Kiwis won't have the broadband speeds required to watch it. And that's where the push for a cell tower in Pirongia comes in.
Viewers will need a fast internet connection if they want to watch all 48 games live.
About 40,000 — mostly rural — New Zealand households do not have access to ultra-fast broadband, but may be able to use a wireless broadband provider.
Spark says a fibre connection is not necessary to watch the RWC and only a "decent" connection is needed.
The performance of wireless broadband depends on the capacity of local cell towers.
Spark corporate relations partner Arwen Vant confirmed the Rugby World Cup was a catalyst for Pirongia's cellphone tower.
"Spark has brought forward a significant amount of investment in fixed and mobile networks in preparation for the Rugby World Cup," she said.
"This includes upgrading hundreds of mobile sites and building new sites to accommodate the expected demand, of which Pirongia is one.
"Ongoing development of sites like the proposed tower in Pirongia are vital to us being able to deliver the mobile and digital services that our customers expect.
"If we are not able to complete the work in Pirongia in advance of the RWC, it is possible that some customers' experience of live-streaming the Rugby World Cup in Pirongia may be affected."
Vant said Pirongia was due for the new cell tower, irrespective of the RWC.
"We are seeing unprecedented growth in demand for data across the board, so our analysis shows that Pirongia does require the new infrastructure."
She said the reason for the proposed cell tower in Pirongia was the growth in demand for digital services.
Community data usage had increased by over 600 per cent over the last three years.
"This increase will only continue as more users demand services, soon the existing site won't cope and users will start to experience issues like dropped calls, loss of connectivity to services and coverage issues. This loss of service has the potential to affect day-to-day accessibility to services, business efficiency and connectivity issues during emergency situations.
"As demand reaches capacity on the existing cell site, Spark needs to invest in new 'infill' sites (usually located in areas where people and businesses need the service) to boost coverage and capacity."
Pirongia Rugby Sports Club secretary Brian Johnson said he wasn't fazed about the possibility of delays while live-streaming the Rugby World Cup.
"It's not going to bother us at the club. The concerns of the community about the cell tower far outweigh the need to watch rugby.
"Young fellas have so much data on their phone these days, that I'm sure if they are desperate enough, they will find a way to watch the games."
The All Blacks' pool games, and their possible quarterfinal, will be free on TVNZ with a one-hour delay, while the semifinals and final will be screened live.
People can use any internet provider to watch the tournament as long as they have signed up to Spark Sport.
Possible tower sites reviewed
Three sites have been identified as possible alternatives to the proposed cell tower in Pirongia.
They are the Golf Course, Penny Rd (near the Transpower Tower) and within the Road Reserve adjacent to SH39 (before the bridge heading north).
Spark is undertaking feasibility assessments for each site, including legal and regulatory requirements, geotechnical assessments and cost of construction.
The work could take between six to eight weeks, and will be followed by a community meeting about the options.
It could now be one to two years before tower construction is completed.
The 20m tower was due to be constructed on a privately owned industrial-zoned area near the corner of Beechey and McClure streets.
But that was until the Pirongia community got wind of the plans and created an uproar.
Residents have formed the Tower Action Group, with the hopes of securing a new location for the tower — one that isn't close to homes, businesses, Pirongia School and Impressions Childcare Centre.
Group spokeswoman Jane Shaw says a meeting with Spark last Thursday was "really positive".
"The feeling of fear, uncertainty and anger experienced by many individuals is turning to glimmers of optimism and a sense that perhaps big businesses and small communities can work together and a different site be found," she says.
Tower Action Group is meeting with MP Barbara Kuriger next week to discuss the possibility of regulatory change.
The community group wants the Government to review the ease with which cell towers can be erected, so that other communities don't end up in the same situation.
"A member's bill presented to government could address this and with the reform of the Resource Management Act under way it is hoped there is impetus for change."