A new Whanganui business is aiming to provide internet access to communities that don't have it or want a better service - and the driving force behind it is just 14 years old.
Alex Stewart has set up Wombat NET, in partnership with his parents and Palmerston North-based internet service provider (ISP) Digital Cloud. Services will include providing wireless internet to rural communities.
"Our mission is to provide faster, more reliable and, mostly importantly, affordable internet to everyone, regardless of location," Alex said.
A visit to Koitiata in Rangitikei got Alex thinking about how he could help improve internet services.
"A lot of people there were a bit fed up with the fact that the major providers had no plans to put in cell towers or internet for the area," Alex said.
He had also done a small-scale job to get internet wirelessly from a house to a shed on a rural property and realised that people may not know what technology was available.
"Now I've partnered with a reputable company in Palmerston North, Digital Cloud, which will be developing and maintaining the network. I've developed Wombat NET and will be the face of the company," Alex said.
"Initially we will be focusing on the Koitiata area, developing the infrastructure and testing our services and getting feedback. We're building our customer base at the moment so we're not offering any services yet. We need to get at least 10 clients signed up in Koitiata before we can put infrastructure in place.
"By the end of this year we're hoping to get all of the Turakina area as well as some other areas. There are some areas around Kai Iwi, and also parts of Westmere, that will be able to see our stations at Turakina.
"After that, when we see how it goes, we could scale up to the wider Whanganui-Manawatū regions for anyone who doesn't have fibre, cell or internet. In some cases, it will be cheaper than fibre, with similar speeds."
Users could be about 20km from a transmitter as long as they had line of sight, Alex said.
Moving into a computer-related business seemed a natural progression for the inquisitive teen.
"I've always been the kid that's fiddling with computers.
"Now I'm home schooled and have a lot of extra time on my hands, I can put that to good use. Dad has given me a lot of advice and put me in a business mindset. Mum helps with logistical things and she's the director of the company because I'm not 18."
In the future Alex sees his future in IT, preferably IT security, but is unsure about whether he will continue with the business long-term or sell it.
"I think it has potential and it's a low risk thing for me and a low risk thing for the customers. I think maybe it will encourage other people to do something in their own communities."
More information about the services that will be available is at www.wombatnet.co.nz