Western Canadians can soon expect to see a new wireless network installed in their region that could bring 3G services closer to reality.
Last month, Toronto-based Bell Canada and Brampton, Ont.-based Nortel Networks announced a $180-billion contract to extend Bell Mobility’s digital PCS network into Alberta and British Columbia through CDMA (code division multiple access) digital technology.
Under the terms of the contract, Nortel will install CDMA 2000 1XRTT wireless Internet infrastructure equipment in the two provinces, including radio base stations and core network switching equipment. The 1XRTT equipment represents the first step in deploying a CDMA 3G network and functions at speeds of up to 144Kbps and operates in the 1,900MHz band.
The network is expected to be operational in major urban centres in Alberta and B.C. by early 2002. By the fall of this year, the company anticipates to officially launch its Western Canadian activities with new store openings and an assortment of wireless products and services.
According to Bell Mobility, the network is designed to support 3G applications and will enable the company to deliver enhanced services and wireless content to Western Canadians. The company said this implementation is the first step to eventually delivering speeds of up to 384Kbps and up to 2Mbps over a variety of mobile devices.
“It is part of the strategy for BCE to be a national communications provider for all products and services,” said Paul Healey, president, Bell Mobility, Western Region in Vancouver. “Being in Western Canada for wireless is right on strategy for us. Western Canada offers the highest penetration of wireless devices anywhere in Canada. What I believe this investment does is it demonstrates Bell Mobility’s commitment to providing Canadians with a national network. It allows us to deliver the most innovative and advanced wireless products to all Western customers.”
Healey noted that the decision to select Nortel as the equipment provider for the venture was based on a relationship the two companies have developed over the last five years.
“Nortel Networks has been the provider for Bell Mobility’s network for some time now,” said Mark Morell, director of strategic marketing for wireless Internet for Nortel. “[Bell Mobility] has really built their network using all of Nortel’s products. This is a working relationship that has really shown that this is kind of an end-step into a lot of testing, trying and working together to provide networks that will be very efficient and will provide the services [Bell] is looking to provide, but also be operationally sound.”
Still, both Bell Mobility and Nortel will have to do more than make promises before Catherine Kuczerpa-Zorn jumps on the wireless network bandwagon. According to Kuczerpa-Zorn, executive director of S.T.A.R. (Science and Technology Association of the Rockies) in Cranbrook, B.C., there is doubt about the promises proffered by Bell Mobility and other carriers, and she stresses that seeing is believing.
“I guess that we are thrilled to see that there is movement going in that (wireless) direction,” she said. “But, by the same token, seeing as we are in a hinterland area and are not as well served as we might be, our (position) is what are you going to do to prove that to us? What are you going to do to show us that this is going to impact our lives positively?”
Kuczerpa-Zorn said that it has been difficult for customers in the less-populated regions of B.C. – including East Kootenay, which has a regional population of 55,000 – to eagerly await Bell Mobility’s wireless network.
“We are typically under-served and are continually reminded that there is not enough market share for companies to consider dealing with us, so I don’t get too excited,” she said.
For details on the expansion, visit www.bell.ca. Nortel can be found at www.nortelnetworks.com. Visit S.T.A.R. at www.ekstar.bc.ca.