RELIEF is on the way to help overcome alarming deficiencies in mobile phone reception at Hamilton airport, where response teams to a fatal air crash on Tuesday night were frustrated by poor signals.
The Standard has been told pilots often have difficulty accessing weather reports on their phones.
Telstra yesterday said the problem had been brought to its attention by Southern Grampians Shire Council and an interim solution would be installed before Christmas with a “smart” antenna in the terminal building.
Wannon MP Dan Tehan plans to meet the shire’s chief executive Richard Perry and aims at tapping into the federal government’s new $100 million package for improving mobile phone blackspots.
It is understood a base station would cost about $500,000 and take about 12 months from planning application to completion.
Telstra regional manager Bill Mundy said a “smart” antenna at the airport would improve voice reception and have some beneficial effect on data speeds.
“This will be installed at Telstra’s expense, but for a long-term solution a new base station must be built in the precinct.
“We, as an organisation, don’t have a firm timeline for a new base station and are unsure of what funding model would be used.”
The shire’s emergency management co-ordinator Nola McFarlane said the airport was one of several areas with poor mobile phone reception.
“At the airport there is an option of using a landline, but in some other remote areas of the shire communication can be really difficult, she said.
“In the past fire season we had a number of challenges around the Grampians and other spots.”
She said key emergency management committees would advise the shire next month to lobby state and federal MPs to find solutions.
Mr Tehan said he would arrange to meet Mr Perry for a full briefing on the phone problems.
“I’ll be seeking to get this matter addressed as soon as possible,” he said.
“It’s these sort of issues that the government’s new fund is designed to address.”