Our network of mobile phone sites is the foundation of our mobile operations - it represents a large proportion of our investment in New Zealand. The ability to operate our network around the country depends upon the trust of local communities, alongside the support of local and central government.
At 31 March 2010 we had 1369 mobile phone sites around the country, covering 97 percent of where New Zealanders live, work and play. In recent years the focus of our network deployment has shifted from building national coverage to maintaining and improving performance. Growth in new site numbers has slowed. Our main focus now is to upgrade the speed and capacity of our sites, in order to bring faster data speeds and the benefits of next generation 3G services to more New Zealanders.
In areas of dense population, 3G services are provided by smaller, lower-powered mobile sites, operating at higher 2100MHz frequencies. Much of the rollout of our urban coverage has involved adding to and updating equipment on existing network sites. Accompanying this is the rollout of new site builds, designed to make use of existing structures such as lamp-posts and commercial rooftops.
In recent years we have dealt with a number of communities concerned about the rollout of new mobile sites. This concern coincided with an increase in network deployment activity across all mobile providers, including Telecom and 2Degrees, whom have both rolled out new mobile networks. A key concern raised by many groups regarding the rollout of mobile sites has been the lack of consultation and notification prior to consent applications or site construction.
The 2008 enactment of the National Environmental Standard (NES) for telecommunications facilities has meant there are fewer regulated obligations upon network builders to consult with councils and local communities when building mobile sites. In order to address these issues Vodafone proposed the creation of a set of Community Engagement Guidelines, setting out a set of engagement practices for the industry to commit to when constructing or altering mobile sites. These guidelines were created by a working party of the Telecommunications Carriers Forum (TCF). The working party included representatives from Vodafone, Telecom, Woosh and Kordia.
The guidelines were launched in November 2009, following a period of public consultation. The guidelines, and the submissions to the consultation, are available to the public on the TCF website
A suitable location for a new mobile phone site must fulfil the technical network requirements for improved coverage for our customers, while balancing the expectations of the community and impacts on the local environment. There are a number of criteria to take into account: