TE Kaha's mobile tower has been operational since Friday and residents are now coming to grips with its 4G-only mobile calling services. Photo supplied

AFTER a few days of confusion, Te Kaha residents are getting the hang of using the services on their newly-installed mobile tower site.

Installed at the Horizon Energy site along Copenhagen Road in Te Kaha, the new tower has been built by the Rural Connectivity Group and offers services provided by Spark, Vodafone and 2degrees.

However, there’s one problem and one trick that needs to be understood by residents to make full use of the tower.

“Old-school” mobile phone-calling technology is not enabled on this tower and residents must have a  “non-dinosaur” mobile phone.

Or, as Opotiki District Council’s Coast Community Board member Gail Keepa explains, “you have to turn on a setting, whanau”.

“My phone is an iPhone, go to settings- mobile data options-turn on 4GVoLTE,” she said.

“Power phone down for 15 minutes turn back on.”

THIS is what enabled 4G calling services may look like on a Samsung phone. Photo Sven Carlsson OS0309-01

After doing this, Ms Keepa said she was able to ring Christchurch and “talk to my baby clear as day”.

“If your phone isn’t a dinosaur it should have 4G VoLTE in your mobile settings somewhere or if it’s really flash it might even display it at the top of your screen,” she said.

Rural Connectivity Group engagement manager Caitlin Metz said the tower, which had been operational since 7pm on Friday, was originally designed to cater for older mobile phones as well.

“The site was designed to be 3G and 4G capable, but due to our desire to start it before the lockdown, it was not possible to equip the facility with 3G services,” she said.

In this case, 3G stands for “third generation” and 4G stands for “fourth generation”.

As mobile phone services have evolved over the years, the new 4G way of handling telephone calls differs significantly from the older methods.

This means that older phones, equipped with only 2G or 3G technology, cannot do phone calls via the Te Kaha tower – but they can still perform data-based calls in apps such as WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger.

To use your mobile for voice calls via the Te Kaha tower, you must first verify that your phone is of a model that can do 4G voice calling – and then you must enable that option.

For instance, on a Samsung Galaxy J5 Pro this is done by going into Settings, selecting Connections, selecting Mobile networks and then Network mode.

The option you want is called “LTE/3G/2G (auto connect)” – this means the phone will be able to use LTE, which the 4G wireless broadband technology standard used at the Te Kaha tower, as well as any lesser standards if they are present.

If you’re uncertain if your phone can use the new VoLTE standard, you may need to visit your service provider website.

For Spark, go to https://www.spark.co.nz/help/mobile/understand/volte/

For Vodafone, to to https://www.vodafone.co.nz/our-networks/volte/

sven.carlsson@thebeacon.co.nz