Huawei Technologies continues to make its presence known in Canada despite allegations by some governments that the telecom equipment company is too close to the Chinese government.

This week as part of a partnership with SaskTel and an Athabasca first nations group Huawei said it has donated $385,000 to a $5.8 million project bringing 4G cellular service to five communities in Saskatchewan.

The Huawei funding helps cover a $634,000 shortfall in revenue over five years for building tower site and operating expenses for extending the cellular network to  the communities of Wollaston Lake, Stony Rapids, Fond du Lac First Nation and Black Lake First Nation. The Athabaska Basin Development, an Aboriginal-owned agency that invests in Northern Saskatchewan , is putting up the remaining $249,000.

SaskTel, which hopes cellular service will start in 2015, asks communities to cover shortfalls when it is not economically feasible for the carrier to fund new cell sites alone.

“We are extremely pleased to be supporting SaskTel and Athabasca Basin Development in this initiative” Huawei Canada president Sean Yang said in a statement.  “This is the single largest contribution we’ve made to connect rural and northern Canadians, and reflects our commitment to ensure residents and business across the province of Saskatchewan have access to innovative technologies.”

“There is incredible potential for business and economic development in the Athabasca region, but one of the most significant challenges for the remote area is accessibility,”  Geoff Gay, CEO of Athabasca Basin Development, said in a statement.  “These cell phone towers will greatly increase connectivity, which leads to so many benefits for the people and business climate in the region.  This contribution gives us an opportunity to do something that will make a real and lasting impact on the Athabasca communities, and we are very pleased to be a partner in this exciting initiative for Saskatchewan’s north.”

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