"FAKALOFA LAHI ATU! Please respond with your provisioning code..."
There is now an OpenBTS pilot site in Niue, installed with the cooperation of Telecom Niue under a license from the government. The system is still in a closed evaluation, but when the evaluation phase ends the Niue system will probably be the first OpenBTS installation to provide common-carrier service to the general public. This is a very big step for the project and will bring a much-missed service to the residents, many of whom already own GSM handsets when they travel in New Zealand. It will be a learning process for everyone involved.
Installation took two weeks and is still incomplete, mostly due to customs delays in New Zealand and incomplete documentation on the installation site. We also had serious problems coordinating spectrum with a large public wifi system who's operators seem to think that they can use whatever spectrum they want without consulting the regulators. I would have blogged about all of this on the spot, but the public internet service was unusable most of the time we were there. (Naturally, they blamed us. More on that later. UPDATED BONUS: They are STILL BLAMING US.) If you need a blog fix right away though, Tim Panton managed to squeeze a posting out.
The short status summary is this: Telecom Niue's technicians put a 13 dBi sector antenna about 53 meters up on a platform. From there, we should be able to get reasonably good coverage over Alofi, 3-5 km away, once the wifi people quit jamming our uplink with their unlicensed 900 MHz gear. We managed to make a few international calls from cellphones in Alofi and we sent a lot of text messages among ourselves around the island. We look forward to working with Telecom Niue over the next few weeks to get the system better configured and tied-in to their existing wireline switch. The details will follow over the next few days.
I also want to say that most of the people we encountered in Niue were remarkably nice to us and that the natural beauty of the island's coastline is stunning ... even for someone who lives in California.
(Kone Magatogia setting the antenna, 53 meters AGL. Thanks to Toki Talagi for this photo.)