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Spark customers move to Starlink

After months of inadequate or non-existent phone signal in Palliser Bay, Spark says it will soon finish fixing the area’s network – but it is too late for some local businesses that have already jumped ship.

The telecommunications company took weeks to make any progress on the problem, which has left households and businesses without WiFi, Eftops, or phone signal since Christmas.

The network issues – caused by trees blocking line-of-site connectivity between the Spark tower at Ocean Beach and the Vodafone tower near Aorangi Forest Park – have disrupted businesses and also posed a health and safety risk to locals who could not contact to emergency services.

The company initially delayed work on fixing the signal because of Cyclone Gabrielle, but some businesses couldn’t wait and have switched to the satellite-based internet provider Starlink instead.

Waimeha Camping Village owner John Priest said Starlink had been “amazing” since he switched over four weeks ago.

“The Spark service was absolutely diabolical to do business with,” he said.

“It was agonising over Christmas, and you just could not convince Spark that there was a fault.”

Priest said the influx of visitors to the area over Christmas exacerbated the problem.

Spark did not record the signal problems until January 19.

Lake Ferry hotel owner Luke Tipoki said Spark initially fobbed him off when he tried to complain.

He ordered a Starlink satellite dish, but the Spark signal began to improve before he set it up.

A month ago, the signal became stronger when Vodafone and Spark raised the Vodafone dish above the tree line, making it visible from StarliLake Ferry Hotel.

Ngawi Sea Trader owner Felicity Pickering said she lost a lot of money through Christmas when her Eftops machine went offline but acknowledged the signal has improved in recent weeks.

A Spark spokesperson said lifting the dish has restored service to normal levels. A contractor will complete the work this week.

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Flynn Nicholls
Flynn Nicholls
Flynn Nicholls is a reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age who regularly writes about education. He is originally from Wellington and is interested in environmental issues and public transport.

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