TELSTRA will be forced to invest millions of dollars on a dedicated mobile phone tower for Hunter Stadium following a series of network meltdowns.
A 30 per cent increase in the stadium’s seating capacity combined with a sharp uptake of smartphone technology over the past three years has pushed the existing mobile telecommunications infrastructure to breaking point.
Spectators have been complaining about not being able to use their phones during major stadium events.
The problem has also spilled into surrounding suburbs, which experience a shortfall in capacity when the stadium is in use.
The stadium has been served in recent years by several surrounding telecommunications towers.
The major tower, at Lambton Road, Broadmeadow, has been upgraded four times as part of an attempt to keep up with demand.
‘‘You just can’t keep expanding a tower’s capacity indefinitely; they have a limited capacity in terms of how many phone calls they can carry at one time and how much data they can carry,’’ Telstra’s Hunter Region manager Chris Cusack said.
The situation is not unique to Newcastle. Major venues in Sydney have also experienced similar telecommunications meltdowns.
Telstra is discussing the new tower’s design and location with the state government, which owns Hunter Stadium.
Mr Cusack said the project had been given priority status but he was unable to say when it would be complete.
Among the groups calling for improved telecommunications infrastructure in the Hunter is the telecommunications lobby group Newcastle Lunaticks Society.
The society is working with a consortium of private groups and councils to develop a wi-fi mesh that would stretch from Salt Ash to Swansea and reduce demand on existing networks.