GIS Geek

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Why?

When looking for places to live it became evident that there wasn't an easy place to check what services (DSL and Cell being the most important of the time) were available at the properties I was looking at.

Cell provider coverage maps didn't really tell the story and while ISPs would tell you VDSL might be available, how close you were to the nearest cabinet/exchange had a large impact on what sort of speeds.

After finding this information was somewhat available, it wasn't available in a format that meant you could easily search it by location.

Coincidentally, Google Fusion Tables was becoming the light weight option for plotting large sets of spatial data, so it turned out the easiest way to display this information so it was most useful was on a webpage.

How?

The data that populates the backend of GIS Geek is generally freely available information from Radio Spectrum Management (RSM) and Chorus.

Anyone who wants to transmit or receive registered spectrum services in New Zealand (which covers all of our cell networks) must register the details of that spectrum with RSM. Likewise Chorus provides information on Cabinet upgrade / roll out information.

Who?

GIS Geek is owned and developed by JGrah.am Limited. You can read about any updates or plans for the site on Medium.

Maps

Cell Towers

The cell towers layer is generated by searching the RSM database for licences from a list of cell service providers (eg, Vodafone, Spark, 2Degrees), and the frequencies that they're known to operate on.

Licences all have a location associated with them, but there's no direct information about associated licenses by tower. Therefore all of the licences are grouped by location, which creates the "cell tower" information.

Point To Point

This map was inspired by Mark Hansen's wonderful map, which unfortunately stopped working when Google shut down Fusion Tables.

Similar to the cell phone towers, all registered frequency point to point links are also in the RSM database. This layer extracts the links that have a "Receive Configuration" and a "Transmit Configuration" and plots them.

Chorus

Chorus used to publically provide information on their cabinet roll out / upgrades. In the brand new world of UFB, where they don't have the rights to every area, they seemed to have stopped providing that information under the guise of "That information is commercially sensitive."

What that means is we're plotting cabinet location and name data based on data that is from 2016. It's quite out of date, and we don't really know what that means in terms of if the cabinets exist. The Exchange data however is relatively up to date, as that data has been crowdsourced and provided.

The broadband data however is currently from November 2019, so while the location information is old, what the site is capable of is accurate.

Hopefully it goes without staying that unlike the Cell Tower data, just because you're close to a Chorus cabinet that doesn't mean you'll get a good service. It's the length and quality of the copper between it and you, and generally the copper doesn't go directly to your house. It will definitely give you an idea however.

If your interest is in fixed infrastructure, you should also check out the National Broadband Map.

Frequently asked questions

I don't think this RSM tower / PTP link exists

You're probably right. What we're plotting are licences to operate spectrum, grouped by location. In order to operate a radio service in New Zealand on a registered frequency you must register the details of with Radio Spectrum Management (RSM).

Generally speaking, you can assume a tower or link does exist where we have one as licences are registered just prior to gear being turned on, but sometimes they've been registered and issues with the installation have happened, and they haven't gone ahead.

What services are running on the tower?

Only the provider will know this. We've made assumptions based on what the providers have said about what service they're running on what frequency, but ultimately the data registered with RSM doesn't tell us what service is running.

...but hang on, I can select 5G and see 5G towers? Yes. When a service is new, it's (again, generally speaking) easier to make assumptions on what is running on what frequency. For example, Vodafone have openly talked about their rollout of 5G on 3500mhz, so we can assume (for now) that all 3500mhz Vodafone licences are 5G.

The issue comes when you read that Spark is rolling out 5G on 2600mhz because this is a frequency they currently already use for 4G / LTE. We have no way to tell what service is what, so you'll have to do your own research.

How does the Cell ID data work?

As above, RSM doesn't have information on what is running on what licence, they just licence the frequency. The Cell ID information comes from opencellid.org. They provide a CSV export of their entire world database, which I periodically and manually load into GIS Geek.

The main issue with this is that their location data is crowd sourced, which means it's not accurate. It gets worse the less urban you get as it's generally fixed to roads. What I'm displaying is the closest x * 2 records to the tower location, where x is the number of licenses associated with that tower. You'll have to use your own judgement on whether the data is accurate.

If you have a better source for this information, please get in contact.