Optus has given an early ‘Yes’ to Cottage Point, commissioning a temporary mobile phone tower.
After years of unreliable telephone coverage, including landline coverage that would regularly drop out, the Cottage Point community had become increasingly frustrated by the lack of progress on improved mobile phone reception, three years after a Commonwealth Government black spot grant had been awarded.
The unreliable phone system and lack of reliable internet caused issues for businesses and residents alike, with community members saying that few children live in the community because of the lack of internet coverage making study and modern learning impossible.
Cottage Point Rural Fire Brigade Captain Jon Russell (image above) said the lack of action was endangering lives, and resulting in the pre-emptive medical evacuation of residents with health conditions when Triple Zero (000) services failed.
“Our Telstra exchange is a little building (image above, left) near the fire station, which connects us to another Telstra exchange in Berowra via a microwave dish.
“If anything goes wrong with the microwave link, such as bad weather, or with power to the exchange, which has only a few hours of battery backup, we lose our phone and internet service. That happens regularly,” said Captain Russell.
The contract to deliver a mobile phone tower to Cottage Point was won by Optus, but was beset by delays from the outset, with various reasons given for delays, ranging from power upgrades, to permission for asset protection zones from NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS), to infrastructure upgrades required elsewhere.
After the intervention of Mackellar MP Dr Sophie Scamps, and the interest of media outlets including Northern Beaches Advocate and 2GB, the project gained momentum, with construction crews arriving late August to begin clearing the site (image below).
To the astonishment of workers used to protests against mobile phone towers, they found themselves being cheered on by locals. As construction has continued through September and October, with power upgrades now completed, work has finally begun on the installation of the new site of the mobile phone tower.
Optus surprised Cottage Point locals late last week with the introduction of a temporary mobile phone tower, known as a ‘Cell On Wheels’ or COW (main image and above). The COW is running off a redundant power supply at the Cottage Point Rural Fire Station until the construction of the new mobile phone tower is complete.
Once set up last Friday (10 November), local mobile coverage was established for calls and text messaging. The connection is maintained via a satellite connection back to a base station located at Oxford Falls.
Following a reconfiguration by Optus engineers on Tuesday (14 November), data transfer speeds of over 25mbps are now being reported at Cottage Point compared to total ADSL internet capacity for the whole community of 8mbps.
Images: Northern Beaches Advocate, Jon Russell