Telus addresses RDOS board to discuss improvements to regional cellular service

Telus has been spending a lot of money improving their services around Penticton lately. They would now like to expand their service.

  • Jan. 31, 2012 12:00 p.m.
A Telus cellular tower recently constructed in the Kootenays.  Telus expressed an  interest in expanding services within the  regional district at the Jan. 26 RDOS board meeting.

A Telus cellular tower recently constructed in the Kootenays. Telus expressed an interest in expanding services within the regional district at the Jan. 26 RDOS board meeting.

Telus has been spending a lot of money improving their services around Penticton lately. They would now like to expand their services to other areas in the regional district.

Steve Jenkins, General Manager for Telus’ Interior South division, addressed the regional district board last Thursday, Jan. 26 to deliver that messasge.

“There is lots going on with Telus,” Jenkins said, noting that Telus had recently spent 4. 7 million dollars on infrastructure improvements in the Penticton area, including the introduction of Telus TV services to the city.

Jenkins described Telus’ contract with the province for use of the 700 MHz bandwidth in the “wireless spectrum” as being ideal for rural applications, noting that a 700 MHz signal transmitted through a single tower covered more distance. He admitted that Telus might be looking to the regional district for support in order to get a “level playing field” to the 700 MHz spectrum.

“The main reason for being here today is to talk about our plans for wireless expansion and enhanced coverage within the region,” he said, noting that specific details would be available in the next month or so. Jenkins expressed an interest in co-operating with the regional district at the planning and development stage, in order to be part of ongoing discussions and dialogue regarding regional district needs and Telus’ expansion plans.

Penticton Director Andrew Jakubeit questioned Jenkins on the aesthetics of Telus’ towers, to which  Jenkins replied that each tower was designed to be site specific, with an artists’ rendition to be produced prior to construction.

Area “D” Director Tom Siddon expressed concern over the increasing proliferation of towers, while noting that dropped calls and incomplete service was not acceptable.

“I am concerned over power levels, duplication – we need to live in a new electronic era.”

Jenkins noted that Telus sites exceeded present safety thresholds, avoiding infrastructure duplication by co-locating wherever possible.

A question was put to Jenkins regarding intermittent rural cell services and whether or not the company would provide coverage for those areas.

“Anyone with a smart phone and a USB memory stick has access to cellular internet,” he replied. Jenkins also informed the board that spacing between cell towers was dependent on geography and population, providing as an example cell coverage from Revelstoke to Golden requiring seven cell towers in total.

Jenkins was questioned by the Review about the possibility of Telus’ improvements to cellular infrastructure being of potential benefit to the regional district’s current issues with their 911 infrastructure. Jenkins replied that he was  not able to discuss any details at this time, but that Telus would ensure that they would consider the 911 and “broader infrastructure” needs of the regional district going forward.

An email sent by the Review to Mark Woods, Community Services Manager at the regional district asking about the implications of Telus’ plans with respect to the regional district’s 911 infrastructure improvement needs was not answered by press time.

Details of Telus’ plans and the company’s requests will be discussed during an in camera session of the regional district board on Feb.2

 

Why 700 MHz?

The costs are lower in rural areas, due to less interference issues and wide-open spaces. That’s because each tower broadcasting at 700MHz covers twice as many square miles. Some estimates say that a single 700 MHz tower can cover 20-miles.

The federal government will be auctioning off some of the 700 MHz bandwidth in the next few months to new players in the communications field, at better prices than what established services like Telus would pay. The best use of the 700 MHz bandwidth is in rural areas, because of the signal’s ability to travel longer distances and have fewer interference issues.

 

Telus would like to ensure that incumbent companies are not penalized by such actions as discounted rates for newcomers, or having sections of the bandwidth set aside exclusively for newcomers.