Bell absorbs Latitude Wireless

NorthwesTel is getting out of the cellphone business. The company announced this week that wireless services have been transferred to Bell Mobility.

NorthwesTel is getting out of the cellphone business.

The company announced this week that wireless services have been transferred to Bell Mobility.

For customers here in the Yukon, that means that all Latitude Wireless customers will have their contracts transferred over to Bell over the coming months.

Latitude is a joint venture of NorthwesTel and the Dakwakada Development Corporation.

The development corporation has sold all of its shares, representing 30 per cent of the company, to NorthwesTel.

Once the transfer to Bell is complete, Latitude will cease to exist.

Paul Gruner, general manager of Dakwakada, said the move was purely a business decision.

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission recently came up with a wireless code that requires providers to meet certain standards of customer service.

Meeting those requirements would mean significant investment in capital upgrades, said Gruner.

The Yukon market isn’t big enough to make those investments worthwhile in the short term, he said.

“And obviously, with competitive forces and a few other things that were coming in, we had some downward pressure, and we decided at this time that we want to sell all our portion of the shares of Latitude.”

Dakwakada continues to focus its investments within the Yukon, said Gruner.

“We certainly are still very committed to the Yukon territory, and investing in the territory. Most of our investments are located in the Yukon. So we’re looking at some opportunities right now, and continue to do so. Nothing concrete right now, but we’re absolutely continuing to grow.”

Paul Flaherty, president of NorthwesTel, spoke to the economies of scale that a national provider can offer.

In addition to meeting regulatory requirements, buying power and innovation are also easier for large companies to do, he said.

“All of those things represent significant investment, and in order to do that you’ve got to spread that investment over a customer base. Because our customer base is quite small, that was proving to be a significant challenge.”

He mentioned Bell TV as one example of how customers will be better served under Bell.

The service allows people to stream live and on-demand television over their phones and mobile devices.

Currently it is available to Bell customers, but not Latitude customers.

Existing Latitude customers will keep their phones and phone numbers. The conditions of their contracts will be the same under Bell.

The actual transfer of contracts will likely take place early next year, said Flaherty. After that, customers will begin to receive their bills from Bell instead of from Latitude.

Prepaid customers will likely be the last to switch over, he said.

Bell has committed to fulfilling the promises that NorthwesTel made in its five-year modernization plan, said Flaherty.

That plan would see 4G cellular service expanded to almost all communities across the North.

The CRTC is currently reviewing the plan, and has yet to make a ruling.

Bell did not respond to a request for comment by press time.

Contact Jacqueline Ronson at

jronson@yukon-news.com

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