Blaze downs mobile network

Sunday October 29, 2017 Written by Published in Local
A fi re crew leaving the scene of yesterday’s fi re after bringing it under control. Investigations are continuing into the cause of the blaze. 17102761 A fi re crew leaving the scene of yesterday’s fi re after bringing it under control. Investigations are continuing into the cause of the blaze. 17102761

Mobile network services in Rarotonga and Aitutaki will be unavailable for at least three weeks after a fire destroyed Bluesky Cook Islands’ second core site in Aroa, Arorangi yesterday.


The site housed mobile exchange equipment and O3B international connectivity equipment.

Rescue Fire Services chief fire officer Willy Hagai late yesterday confirmed the fire had completely destroyed the site.

Bluesky country manager Phillip Henderson said they were yet to ascertain the cause of fire and the extent of the damage.

But he said the fire appeared to have destroyed the whole facility which is valued “in millions”.

“We haven’t had a chance to get into the building to assess the damage, but based on what I saw, I have no hopes that we would recover anything,” Henderson said.

“If the fire hadn’t destroyed it, the actual attempts to control the fire with water would have destroyed the equipment, which is not unexpected in a situation like this.”

Henderson said mobile network services in Rarotonga and Aitutaki would not be available until Bluesky obtained new equipment to restore the site.

Some customers could experience outages with their internet and landline services too, he said.

Restoration would take “maybe up to three weeks”, depending on whether vendors had the required stock available for quick deployment.

“The outdoor terminal is also destroyed but not the satellite antenna, just the electronic equipment. We are fortunate we have a diverse site here and we have rerouted all international broadband connectively over to the Avarua site,” he said.

“We are also in the process of routing the fixed calling lines in the western side back to Avarua.

“We have the capacity to carry all the traffic on both sites for this very purpose. We have lost one, we can restore the other. The only issue we had was we cannot do a split configuration on the mobile calls and it appears that our worst fears have been realised with the fire on that site.”

Henderson said Bluesky had been notified of the fire through their terminal alarm and surveillance video.

Staff rushed to the scene but were unable to enter the building because of smoke.

“We are requesting the understanding of our customers as the team are fully committed to restore the services as quickly as possible. I have a lot of confidence (they) will have the support from our vendors to get the equipment sooner than expected.”

Hagai said Rescue Fire Services had been notified of the blaze at 12.20pm by a Bluesky staff member.

He said since telecommunication lines were down, fire fighters faced a major challenge in coordinating with Bluesky and other stakeholders.

Five fire trucks had attended the site but were unable to save the building.

 “We were unable to make access to the building, it took us a while because the power was still live in the building. Since the telecommunication lines were down, we also had difficulties getting in touch with Te Aponga Uira.

“We will do our investigation next week to find the cause of the fire. Bluesky will also do their own investigation.”

Telecommunications minister Mark Brown said the fire was a big catastrophe after a 1992 incident which saw fire destroy the central exchange system.

Cook Islands then was without any phone services for almost six weeks.

“I’m confident that our team will have the services up and running as quick as they can. They have demonstrated well in the past how to respond to challenges in difficult times,” Brown said.

“This is a big catastrophe, but luckily redundancies are built into the system so that we can shift what was being done in Aroa back to town. But of course it’s the mobile service that will take a bit longer.”

Henderson said they would work on setting up more Wi-Fi hotspots around the island and keep the public updated on their progress.

Leave a comment