BCE to spend $233M to bring 3G to the North by Jamie Sturgeon

Jan 17, 2013

Source: Ottawa Citizen

Dozens of communities in the country's North, say hello to the iPhone - or BlackBerry Bold.

BCE Inc.'s northern subsidiary, NorthwesTel, announced sweeping modernization plans for Canada's northern parts Thursday that include rolling out third-generation or "3G" mobile services to 67 communities for the first time.

In total, nearly a quarter of a billion dollars will be spent over the next five years deploying more advanced wireless services as well as doubling - and in some cases tripling - Internet speeds across the phone company's copper network in the Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut.

"This will be the most ambitious expansion of communications technology ever undertaken in Northern Canada," the BCE unit said in a release.

A filing was made Wednesday with the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, which is holding a public consultation on the $233-million proposal.

The new proposal replaces an initial plan tabled to the CRTC last year that pledged $273 million, a total that included $40 million BCE said it would spend if its acquisition of television firm Astral Media Inc. was approved.

BCE was criticized at the time for attempting to leverage its upgrade plans in the North into securing the controversial takeover. With the Astral deal in limbo, North-wesTel appears to be plotting a course without the funds.

Spurred by the Ottawa's aims to increase economic development across the region and guard the country's sovereignty in the Arctic, the commission has made modernizing the North a priority. The CRTC plans to hold hearings on the plan in June in Inuvik and Whitehorse.

© Ottawa Citizen