On 2 June 2023, the Ventia Telecommunications team completed one of six off-grid connectivity solutions with generator backup near Porters Ski Field, 99km northwest of Christchurch in New Zealand's South Island.  

Just a week before, on 26 May, the team had brought another cell site, Te Painga, online in Kaeo - a township in the Far North District of New Zealand, about 285kms north of Auckland.  

The sites are part of the Rural Connectivity Group's (RCG) network of over 450 telecommunication sites to deliver wireless broadband and mobile services to rural New Zealand. The work is funded under the government's Rural Broadband Initiative Phase 2 (RBI2) and Mobile Black Spot Fund (MBSF) programmes. 

RCG mobile cell sites enable essential 4G wireless broadband and mobile voice, data, and text services with faster internet access and higher data upload and download capacity to be readily available to rural communities and businesses across New Zealand.  

"In my 30-plus years within the industry, this has been one of the most collaborative approaches to delivering connectivity to rural communities I have experienced. The telecommunications industry, government, service providers such as Ventia, local Councils, and community all working together to provide essential digital services across Aotearoa", says Ian Hooker CEO - of the Rural Connectivity Group, NZ.  

Of the Te Painga cell site Mr. Hooker says "We know the community, the marae, and the health centre are going to be very pleased to have connectivity.'

Our cell site and the services it will deliver locally will make a hugely positive impact on everyone's daily lives.


Essential connectivity 

Ventia has been working with the RCG since December 2019 building telecommunications cell site infrastructure across the North and South Island of Aotearoa.  

The critical connectivity programme makes a vast difference to communities, businesses, and tourists in regional areas, as access to wireless broadband and mobile services supports working and schooling from home, online business transactions, e-commerce, and other vital services.  

Ventia's contribution to RCGs work programme has seen some of New Zealand's most isolated state highway locations provided with voice-calling coverage under the MBSF. 

"Our work in New Zealand is truly captivating, taking us to the most remote and off-grid areas of the country whether it be the remoteness of Milford Sound, the rugged Southern Alps or the difficult to access but tranquil Marlborough Sounds," said John Cansdale, Project Manager DNI South Island.  

Some sites are relatively straightforward; others are extremely difficult requiring all-terrain-vehicles or helicopter access.

The work aligns perfectly with Ventia's strategy of redefining service excellence, providing a sustainable solution to clients and communities.  

"It's challenging work that requires a diverse range of skills and proven ability to react to the various conditions encountered," says Kerry Gardiner, Ventia Operations Manager - Digital Network Infrastructure New Zealand.  

"We've had to deal with severe weather conditions in the North Island: multiple cyclones, severe weather, flooding. Our teams in the field need to be constantly vigilant with health and safety foremost."  

Te Painga cell site in Kaeo, Far North District 


Industry-leading collaboration 

The program started with the establishment of the RCG in 2017, with the main work - 400 RBI2 and MBSF telecommunications sites - completed by December 2022. 

The sites are the result of an industry-leading collaboration between New Zealand's three mobile network operators- Spark, One NZ (previously Vodafone), and 2degrees - and Crown Infrastructure Partners.  

In a world first, the infrastructure built by RCG allows all three operators to share the radio access network equipment and one set of antennas to provide services to areas of need as opposed to each operator building their own facility to provide services. 

At least another 50 sites are due to be livened over the next two to three years.  

Once the RCG project is completed it will deliver new mobile and wireless broadband coverage with fast, reliable internet connectivity to businesses across 500 new sites.