NorthwesTel invests $43.7M in 2013

NorthwesTel says it is on track to deliver $43.7 million in service upgrades across the North this year. By the end of the year, the company will have brought 4G wireless to 22 new communities.

NorthwesTel says it is on track to deliver $43.7 million in service upgrades across the North this year.

By the end of the year, the company will have brought 4G wireless to 22 new communities.

Those include Yukon communities of Dawson City, Mayo, Carmacks, Haines Junction, Teslin and Watson Lake.

Soon, there will be 4G cell service at the Dawson airport, too, announced NorthwesTel president Paul Flaherty at an event Thursday.

And before the end of the year, Internet speeds will go up to 100 megabits per second in Whitehorse.

This is the first year of the five-year plan.

At the end, the company hopes that wireless services will be available in 83 of the 96 communities that NorthwesTel serves.

But of those, 26 are contingent on finding $700,000 in grants.

Without that money, there would be no business case to go into those communities, said Flaherty.

The money would most likely come from government, and the company is working on securing the funds, he said.

But soon the modernization plan commitments related to wireless upgrades will be in Bell Canada’s hands.

NorthwesTel announced last month that Bell will take over all wireless services, including Latitude Wireless here in the Yukon.

Latitude customers will be transferred to Bell some time in the new year, said Flaherty.

Bell has promised to fulfil all the commitments made by NorthwesTel in the modernization plan, said Flaherty.

“We’ll hold them to account and make sure they do it.”

The modernization plan is currently under review by the Canadian Radio-television Telecommunications Commission, which is expected to issue a decision before the end of the year.

But Flaherty said the company is not expecting any major changes.

“They aren’t necessarily in a position to force us to do upgrades. Particularly because if you look at the wireless services, wireless services aren’t regulated. So it would be really unusual for them to mandate that we do things in the wireless space.”

NorthwesTel is not waiting for the CRTC’s blessing to implement these upgrades, and that’s why they have done so much already this year, he said.

But if the CRTC’s ruling does, for some reason, make it harder for the company to turn a profit, it could kick some of the investments down the road, said Flaherty.

“At the end of the day, you need revenues to help support the capital. So if for some reason the revenues were diminished significantly because of a decision that they might make, that might cause us to slow things down. Obviously it hasn’t slowed this year. We committed to $43.7 million and we’re going to deliver on that.”

Contact Jacqueline Ronson at

jronson@yukon-news.com

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