Airport travellers could be less wired

More than 28 million people, who pass through Pearson International airport in Toronto annually, face being without their wireless device of choice in the airport, if an agreement between The Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association (CWTA) and The Greater Toronto Airport Association (GTAA) can’t be reached.

At this stage, money is clearly the obstacle to signing a new deal. According to reports, the GTAA is asking the four telcos who currently provide wireless services to the airport to fork up an additional 500 per cent for lease fees alone. Currently, Bell Mobility, Rogers Wireless, Telus Mobility and Microcell Telecommunications Inc. have invested approximately $8.5 million in infrastructure to provide wireless access. Marc Choma, the director of communications at the CWTA said that telcos are willing to spend additional resources for new terminals under construction but adds, “not under conditions that are unreasonable.”

The GTAA is looking for additional money from the telcos for both non-public parts of the airport and for new terminal construction projects. While Choma characterized coverage within the airport as good, the GTAA claim that cell-phone coverage within certain parts of the terminal is less than stellar.

To complicate matters, the GTAA had imposed a deadline of midnight Wednesday when the CWTA applied to Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) to intervene and not pull the plug on wireless services until a resolution could be reached. As a result, the GTAA had until 5 p.m. Wednesday to respond to the application made by the CWTA and they in turn have until Thursday to respond to the airport’s comments.

Yet for the consumer, it potentially means leaving cell-phones, laptops and other wireless devices at home. Choma said consumers could expect reduced coverage within Pearson. Although, there is infrastructure in place around the airport, those sites were never designed to reach inside the walls of the airport.

“It’s unrealistic to us that Canada’s largest airport wouldn’t have wireless services and that would be totally unacceptable to Canadians and international travellers,” Choma said.

With no negotiations currently taking place between the GTAA and the CWTA, a spokesperson said the telcos have been providing services to airport customers without a contract since May 31st, and those services will continue for the remainder of the week.

“There is a CRTC process in place and we will allow that to happen but we don’t want it to drag out for weeks and months,” said Peter Gregg, general manager of communications for the GTAA in Toronto.

Gregg reiterated that the quality of service being provided by the four telcos is “poor” and restricted to only public portions of the airport, an arrangement that he said must change so that service is ubiquitous throughout. “There is no commitment on the part of the four telecommunications companies to invest in the improvement of the service,” he said.

The absence of those services would also affect the thousands of internal workers at Pearson, including public safety and security officials who rely heavily on wireless services constantly.

The CWTA can be reached at

The CRTC can be found at

The GTAA is at

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