With financing from a new majority shareholder, the carrier will upgrade its cellular network to 3G shortly and then to the faster LTE technology

Ice Wireless vows to bring LTE to the north

The Northwest Territories’ smallest cellular carrier is about to get a network boost to better compete against Bell Canada and Telus Corp. now that it has a big backer.

Ice Wireless’ voice-and-text-only 2G network will be upgraded to a voice and data 3G network “in the next 3 to four months,” Maged Bishara, vice-president of operations at the company, said Monday.

He also holds the same position in Markham, Ont.-based broadband provider Iristel Inc., which became Ice Wireless’ largest shareholder earlier this year.

With 3G, Ice Wireless will be able to offer subscribers data speeds of up to 7.2 Mbps [under ideal conditions], he said,

But, he added, “very shortly afterwards we can upgrade our data package to LTE.”

Ice Wireless doesn’t have the AWS spectrum needed to run LTE, but Bishara said the company has access to some.

He didn’t detail, but Wind Mobile’s parent Globalive Wireless Management bought $389,000 worth of AWS spectrum covering the north in the 2008 spectrum auction which it hasn’t used yet.

Ice Wireless will expand its cellular network into Yukon and Nunavut, he said, and cut into what northerners believe are inflated telecommunications prices.

“Competition in the north will bring wireless prices down,” he predicted.

LTE is a 4G network technology with the possibility of data speeds under ideal conditions of around 100 Mbps. Most major Canadian cities have LTE service.

Gaining LTE would put Ice Wireless on a better footing to compete against Telus Corp., and Bell Mobility, which offer LTE wireless service in Yellowknife.

Ice Wireless now offers 2G service in Yellowknife, Inuvik and Bechoko. When 3G is added, service will also extend to Whitehorse, Hay River and Aklavik.

It sells currently unlocked cellphones with $25 a month voice and text plans.

Last week Iristel and Ice announced what Bishara called a “multi-million dollar deal” to buy a core mobile switch and 30 cellular antennas from Huawei Technologies, which will be the heart of the 3G wireless network conversion.

Iristel is a competitive local exchange carrier (CLEC) which sells voice-over-IP service and IP-PBX and IP trunking to businesses and residences through resellers and service providers across the country.

The investment in Ice Wireless, which is allowing it to expand, came about when Iristel was looking to expand its phone service north. Cellular is a “natural extension” of Iristel’s broadband network, Bishara said.

While the investment will allow Ice Wireless to grow its cellular network, Iristel will offer fixed wireless and bundled services to businesses and residents in cities and towns where Ice Wireless is.

“There’s going to be price-sensitive deployment on both sides” of the two companies’ offerings, he said.

Bell, which sells telecom services itself or through its wholly-owned Northwestel Inc. division, has been sensitive about telecommunications pricing recently.

In December, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) opened Northwestel up to landline competition.

Then this past summer Bell parent BCE Inc.  promised the CRTC that it will spend $273 million over five years upgrading wireless and wireline networks across 96 northern communities if the regulator approves its purchase of broadcaster Astral Media.

The regulator can impose conditions on the deal because it might reduce broadcast competition.

The NorthWest Territories’ smallest cellular carrier is about to get a network boost to better compete against Bell Canada and Telus Corp. now that it has a big backer.

Ice Wireless’ voice-and-text-only 2G network will be upgraded to a voice and data 3G network “in the next 3 to four months,” Maged Bishara, vice-president of operations at the company, said Monday.

He also holds the same position in Markham, Ont.-based broadband provider Iristel Inc., which became Ice Wireless’ largest shareholder earlier this year.

With 3G, Ice Wireless will be able to offer subscribers data speeds of up to 7.2 Mbps [under ideal conditions], he said,

But, he added, “very shortly afterwards we can upgrade our data package to LTE.”

Ice Wireless doesn’t have the AWS spectrum needed to run LTE, but Bishara said the company has access to some.

He didn’t detail, but Wind Mobile’s parent Globalive Wireless Management bought $389,000 worth of AWS spectrum covering the north in the 2008 spectrum auction which it hasn’t used yet.

Ice Wireless will expand its cellular network into Yukon and Nunavut, he said, and cut into what northerners believe are inflated telecommunications prices.

“Competition in the north will bring wireless prices down,” he predicted.

LTE is a 4G network technology with the possibility of data speeds under ideal conditions of around 100 Mbps. Most major Canadian cities have LTE service.

Gaining LTE would put Ice Wireless on a better footing to compete against Telus Corp., and Bell Mobility, which offer LTE wireless service in Yellowknife.

Ice Wireless now offers 2G service in Yellowknife, Inuvik and Bechoko, and shortly in Whitehorse, Hay River and Aklavik.

It sells currently unlocked cellphones with $25 a month voice and text plans.

Last week Iristel and Ice announced what Bishara called a “multi-million dollar deal” to buy a core mobile switch and 30 cellular antennas from Huawei Technologies, which will be the heart of the 3G wireless network conversion.

Iristel is a competitive local exchange carrier (CLEC) which sells voice-over-IP service and IP-PBX and IP trunking to businesses and residences through resellers and service providers across the country.

The investment in Ice Wireless, which is allowing it to expand, came about when Iristel was looking to expand its phone service north. Cellular is a “natural extension” of Iristel’s broadband network, Bishara said.

While the investment will allow Ice Wireless to grow its cellular network, Iristel will offer fixed wireless and bundled services to businesses and residents in cities and towns where Ice Wireless is.

“There’s going to be price-sensitive deployment on both sides” of the two companies’ offerings, he said.

Bell, which sells telecom services itself or through its wholly-owned Northwestel Inc. division, has been sensitive about telecommunications pricing recently.

In December, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) opened Northwestel up to landline competition.

Then this past summer Bell parent BCE Inc.  promised the CRTC that it will spend $273 million over five years upgrading wireless and wireline networks across 96 northern communities if the regulator approves its purchase of broadcaster Astral Media. Astral owns a number of cable TV channels and radio stations.

The regulator can impose conditions on the deal because it might reduce broadcast competition. Telus and other have objected to the purchase.

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