The future is now in Dawson City

Latitude Wireless hooked up Dawson City with 3G wireless service this week. It didn't take long for Dawsonites to embrace the new technology, said Mayor Wayne Potoroka.

Latitude Wireless hooked up Dawson City with 3G wireless service this week.

It didn’t take long for Dawsonites to embrace the new technology, said Mayor Wayne Potoroka.

“In fact, I just received a call from my neighbour yesterday from his wife’s iPhone. He’s pretty excited about it,” said Potoroka.

While the mayor himself doesn’t own a cellphone, plenty of his constituents have already bought smart phones in anticipation of this move.

“A lot of people I know purchased them because they’re really nifty tools,” he said.

But it’s not just good news for technophiles.

Getting 3G access has long been something that the Klondike business community has been clamouring for.

The lack of connectivity was a frustration for tourists and a hindrance for business, said Potoroka.

“Any time you can provide one more service and one more reason for people that want to come to your town to do business, that’s great,” he said.

The plans to hook Dawson up were in the works for three months, said Curtis Shaw, the general manager of Latitude Wireless.

“It’s something we wanted to get done before Christmas and we didn’t know if we’d be able to with the weather,” he said. “We were kind of racing to get it done before the end of the year.”

As of this week, most of the town is covered, but there are still some dead zones near the airport, he said.

“The airport is a little more complicated, just in terms of snow and stuff on a mountain,” he said.

Dawson now joins the ranks of Marsh Lake and Whitehorse, which both have 3G service.

The rest of the territory is still runs on old CDMA wireless technology.

Plans were in the works earlier this year for NorthwesTel – which owns a large stake in Latitude – to hook the entire North up with 3G services.

It was part of a modernization plan forced on NorthwesTel by the Canadian Radio-television Telecommunications Commission.

The $273-million project included $40 million from the public benefits fund that Bell Canada Enterprises

– NorthwesTel’s parent company – had to put aside as part of its purchase of Astral Media.

After the CRTC scuttled the Astral deal, NorthwesTel had to go back to the drawing board.

The deadline for the revised modernization plan is Jan. 16.

Without that additional $40 million, it’s likely that not all of the communities in the Yukon will see 3G wireless services in the near term.

“We’re looking at how far we can take 3G,” said Shaw. “There’s going to be some communities that will likely not be economic and we’re not going to be able to have ubiquitous coverage in every single community in northern Canada.

“Places like Dawson city, obviously there’s lots of demand for service and there’s an economic case to make it, so we decided to move forward with Dawson and not wait.”

Depending on how things go, Dawson could see another upgrade sooner rather than later.

“The network we’ve put in is actually upgradable to 4G, so if there’s lots of demand for data, lots of demand for bandwidth, in the future we can move the network to 4G,” said Shaw.

Contact Josh Kerr at

joshk@yukon-news.com

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