Auckland Mayor Wayne Brown plans to fix mobile phone black spots in areas

New Auckland Mayor Wayne Brown.

Ricky Wilson/Staff

New Auckland Mayor Wayne Brown.

Newly elected Auckland Mayor Wayne Brown has announced plans to fix the area’s cell phone black spots.

In a statement on Sunday, Brown said he has written to CEOs at 2degrees, Spark and One NZ (formerly Vodafone) offering them to work with them to eliminate remaining Aucklands from mobile black spots and low calling rates.

He also asked cell phone companies how he could help them improve their services.

In general, mobile coverage in the largest cities is good. However, there are parts of Auckland with poor cell phone coverage and so-called dead zones (locations where there is no mobile signal).

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Brown said people should be able to walk anywhere in Auckland CBD, other major business centers and drive along Highway 1 without interrupted calls.

“My job is to work with 2degrees, Spark, One, CIP and others to make this not just an aspiration but a reality that all Aucklanders live with every day.”

Ricky Wilson/Staff

Wayne Brown gave his first interview with Staff as mayor of Auckland.

In the letter to businesses, Brown said while campaigning for mayor, the “constant” source of complaint was cellphone black spots and the consequent drop in calls.

“Oaklanders are right to be frustrated when the city’s mobile coverage is substandard and limited,” he said.

Brown said that while he knew the government’s Mobile Black Spot Fund program had enabled upgrades in Auckland, it “wasn’t enough”.

“I’m interested to know what additional support is available, and whether the central government is providing you with the regulatory and other support you need to address service coverage issues in Auckland.”

Brown asked to be provided with information on what was done to identify and address the black spots covering the mobile phone, and the rate of dropped calls across the region.

“While not as prominent as other concerns about transportation or the cost of living, concerns about network coverage were very high on the list of those raised with me.”

New Zealand Communications Forum (TCF) CEO Paul Breslin said the telecoms industry welcomes Brown’s input.

He said that while Aoteaora has one of the highest rates of investment in communications in the OECD, there has always been more to do.

New Zealand Communications Forum (TCF) chief executive Paul Breslin said the mayors' input was welcome.

Lawrence Smith/Staff

New Zealand Communications Forum (TCF) chief executive Paul Breslin said the mayors’ input was welcome.

“It is imperative that digital infrastructure be treated as a priority alongside other forms of infrastructure and we would welcome the opportunity to discuss this with the new council.”

By the end of the year, mobile network operators will provide coverage to 99.8% of the population.

But Breslin said funding for a network deployment in remote or sparsely populated areas requires a public-private investment model.

“While introducing the new regulatory environment, it is critical that we have certainty about the rules and process for deploying network assets, as maintaining an ongoing business program is essential for our mobile operators.”