A second team of engineers and riggers, dubbed the Red Response Team, are en route to Fiji to help Vodafone Fiji repair damaged communication equipment and re-establish telecommunications services.
The team of five will base themselves in Suva and will travel across the islands to work on restoring Fiji’s permanent telecommunications infrastructure after a number of cell sites around the country were damaged by Tropical Cyclone Winston - a category 5 storm.
With average wind speeds of 230 km/h and some gusts in the vicinity of 350 km/h, in addition to damage to cell sites, some of the microwave dishes that provide point to point connectivity over long distances were knocked out of alignment during the storm.
An initial assessment by Vodafone Fiji has identified the equipment necessary to conduct emergency repairs and where required, start the rebuild. The team are taking with them an assortment of equipment including portable generators, power leads, adapters, a DC (power) system, cell site antennas, certain microwave tools and transmission gear.
The team will focus on checking and repairing cell sites and damaged antenna lines, and deploying generators to get services back on as quickly as possible. They are expected to be in Fiji for up to three weeks.
Craige Pote, a network engineer for Vodafone and part of the Red Response Team, was involved with restoring communications in Christchurch after the February 2011 earthquake and says experiences like that have prepared him to expect something out of the ordinary.
“We are getting reports through from the team in Fiji about the extent of the damage but we won’t really know what we are up against until we get there. Apparently the bigger island is not too bad. It is the smaller, remote and isolated communities that we are concerned about, they are completely cut off,” said Craige Pote.
One of the Vodafone New Zealand network engineers has previous experience working in Vodafone Fiji. Kalam Azad was part of the build team, responsible for establishing the Vodafone Fiji network before joining Vodafone New Zealand recently.
For Saimone Rokotunidau, one of the Downer team members, Fiji is home. “I am preparing myself to face a very different Fiji from the one I know. I am proud to be able to use my skills and expertise to help Fijians reconnect and Fiji recover”.
This deployment will be the first to Fiji for both Vodafone New Zealand transmission expert Murray Kent, and Downer engineer and rigger Keri Ria.
The Red Response Team is the second deployment from Vodafone New Zealand to assist Vodafone Fiji with the recovery of telecommunication services. Earlier this week, the New Zealand based Vodafone Foundation Instant Network team were quick to answer a request for assistance and to provide interim communication solutions – critical for the recovery efforts.
To stay up to date with the progress of the Vodafone teams in Fiji, head to the blog https://vodafone.co.nz/fiji Updates, photos and video will be posted regularly.