Marlborough Sounds

Location: Tira Ora Estate, Tiraora Bay, Pelorus Sound


1.       Landline is provided via solar-powered radio link across Pelorus Sound.  This link is subject to outages in cloudy periods.  This poses problems for normal business and especially for faults and emergency calls;

2.       Cellphone communication is not an option during outages due to lack of coverage; there are 500m high hills between us and nearest cell tower (10km away): we are at sea level;

3.       Broadband is not available on the landline due to the small bandwidth of the radio link;

4.       Dial-up internet over the radio link has high latency (ping delay of up to 15 seconds), tiny download speed (down to 1kbps), and the connection drops persistently (many times a day);

5.       Satellite broadband is not an option due to hills in the west.

Solution:  Enable mobile broadband internet access providing high speed data at all times and voice-over-internet calls when necessary.

Normal cellphone reception: Intermittent 0-2 bars signal strength only at a few outdoor spots located by trial and error.  Intermittent text messaging only; no voice or data calls possible.  No significant difference between Telecom and Vodafone.  CDMA somewhat better than XT, but CDMA is being terminated next year.

Strategy: Erect Yagi antenna at beach pointing at hills on opposite side of Pelorus Sound (5km away); signal reflects off hills to/from cell tower 10km away from there.  Connect with short cable to cellphone and/or modem router.  Connect cellphone or router to Tira Ora Estate WiFi network.

Equipment installed: Cellutronics AY15-10 Broadband Directional Antenna with custom-made 1m low-loss cable; Telecom Turbo Wireless 3G21WZ Modem Router.  We also bought a Telecom R90 cellphone that has an external antenna socket.

Results:  Excellent.  Ping time of 250ms; download speed of 150kBps; upload speed of 50kBps.  Uptime close to 100% so far.  Skype and FaceTime provide excellent alternatives to landline.  If the 3G21ZW ever failed, or if we have a power outage ourselves, then the R90 phone can be connected to the antenna for voice calls and it can also function as a dial-up modem for internet access.

Lessons:  There were some people at Telecom NZ and their contractors who told us that this wouldn't work or couldn't be done and many others who had no idea it was even a possible option.  The moral of the story is to never take "No" for an answer; keep persevering until you find the experts:  Cellutronics.

A A Broad

Tira Ora Estate
North West Bay, Pelorus Sound
Private Bag 65013, Havelock 7150
Ph: 03 579 8117