Cell phone towers at Manurewa, Porirua and near Kaitaia have been damaged by attackers convinced 5G cellular technology is behind the Covid–19 epidemic.
The local attacks echo events overseas. In the UK 33 towers have been destroyed or damaged. Similar attacks have taken place in the Netherlands and elsewhere in Europe.
British telecommunications engineers have been both physically and verbally assaulted. This includes threats to kill. Also in the UK telephone polls have been wrapped with barbed wire to stop engineers from working.
In many incidents the attacks have not been on actual 5G infrastructure. The tower that was attacked in Northland is owned by the Rural Connectivity Group which only works with 4G and 3G.
The tower was, at the time of the attack, lying on the ground waiting to be erected. The RCG says it was racing to install a number of rural towers before the Covid–19 lockdown began so that New Zealanders in more remote areas would have voice and broadband connectivity while confined to home. It will now be months before people in that area get coverage.
While the attacked tower was covered by the building contractor’s insurance, it is possible premiums will rise for all cellular carriers as a result of these attacks.
Mobile carriers say they are now in a high state of alert.
Spark issued a statement saying it has been working with the police over threats made to its sites.
It says: "Since the end of March, there has been vandalism, including arson attempts at a few of our cell towers.
“While the damage was fairly negligible, one event caused an outage of mobile and wireless broadband services in the surrounding area.”
Vodafone says it has also had threats and is constantly monitoring its site. It says the police has the GPS locations of all cell sites and has stepped up patrols watching for suspicious activity.