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NZ earthquake: Kiwi telcos join forces for Kaikoura recovery

15 Nov 2016

Vodafone, Spark and Chorus are all working together to restore services to Kaikoura.

The disaster earthquake that struck New Zealand yesterday damaged a major fibre optic cable that runs from the top of the South Island, along State Highway 1 through Clarence and Kaikoura, to Christchurch.

So far six breaks have been identified along this cable, and the conditions and nature of the damage to the cable and the adjacent State Highway means that restoration work is going to take a considerable amount of time.

Because of this, the telco providers are advising that repairs may take weeks or possibly months. 

In order to support the Kaikoura community, residents, and incoming support workers, Vodafone, Spark and Chorus are exploring a range of options to provide temporary connectivity to the Kaikoura township, including microwave backhaul links to mobile cell sites. 

At this stage, the three companies are investigating an undersea cable owned by Vodafone that could repurpose the fibre cable and restore temporary connectivity for the township.

This potential solution is particularly challenging and might not be successful -the three telcos expect to have a clearer view on timelines and the likelihood of success by the end of today.

Most Kaikoura residents can still call each other on fixed copper lines locally, but no calls can be made into or out of the area.

Spark also installed a signal booster to the mobile cell site on the Kaikoura peninsula last night as an interim solution and Spark customers in Kaikoura should now have limited access to the mobile network.

Today, Spark is looking at following in Vodafone’s footsteps and installing a microwave backhaul link to improve mobile connectivity further.

With the loss of this east coast cable, all three providers face challenges as back up connectivity options are reduced.

Spark South Island landline and broadband services are currently reliant on the integrity of the Western cable, which runs from Blenheim and Nelson down to Christchurch via Greymouth.

If the Western cable was also damaged, it could seriously degrade connectivity for much of the South Island. To increase protection of this cable, Spark has cancelled permits for any earth works or maintenance along the length of the cable. 

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