New cell sites target rural areas

Mervin, Marsden get improved service

SaskTel hopes to improve cell phone and internet service in the Mervin and Marsden areas, according to a recent announcement, with the launch of LTE cellular services in those communities.

According to SaskTel, the new services come as a result of a “deployment of a small cell site.”

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SaskTel Director of External Communications Michelle Englot said small cell sites are small cell towers installed “to improve cellular service in areas [that currently have] fringe service.”

The towers are also used to provide wireless internet for wireless devices, Englot said.

The changes are part of a four-phase Government of Saskatchewan initiative intended to improve cellular and internet services in rural areas.

The recent announcement concerns Phase 2 of the plan.

Phase 1 consisted of, among other things, $4.2 million spent in expanding High Speed Fusion Internet to 34 rural locations last year.

Phase 2 consists of deploying small cell sites to improve cellular service in 100 rural communities, with a goal of being finished by 2020.

The next phase is to “enhanc[e] co-operation with independent providers” to improve service in rural areas.

Government expects the full implementation of the plan by 2023.

A digital divide, a discrepancy among Canadians who have easy access to information technologies, continues to exist in Saskatchewan.

Many older people don’t use the internet. Some News-Optimist readers have dial-up internet.

Englot said dial-up users in the province are rare, while the majority who have dial-up choose it as an option versus high speed internet. In some areas, Englot wrote in an email, dial-up is the only option.

Englot said wireless internet covers “98 per cent of the population” in the province. According to a letter to the News-Optimist from Cut Knife-Turtleford MLA Larry Doke, wireless and internet services cover 99 per cent of the population. With recent data showing Saskatchewan population at about 1,165,903 people, two per cent is about 23,000 people.

Good internet, Englot said, depends on where one is located, while “out in the middle of nowhere you may not have internet service.”

One of SaskTel’s founding goals was to provide telephone service for everyone in the province, and Englot said government efforts to bring internet service to remote areas is a continuation of that goal.

Doke wrote the government understands “there are still rural parts of the province that are underserved” and plans to “continue to work with SaskTel and rural municipalities across the province to identify coverage gaps” and expand wireless service.


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