Sasktel Cellular Coverage and Internet Services

Year: 2014

Number: 25-14M

Department: SaskTel

Midterm: Yes

WHEREAS cellular coverage and internet rervice in rural Saskatchewan is unreliable and often inaccessible;

BE IT RESOLVED that SARM lobby SaskTel for better internet and cellular coverage for residents of Rural Saskatchewan.

Response from the Honorable Kevin Doherty, Minister Responsible for SaskTel

SaskTel understands the importance of providing communications services in nu·al areas. However, SaskTel faces a unique challenge in providing these services to one of the most geographically  dispersed populations in the country. As Saskatchewan  has the fewest customers per square kilometre of any Canadian province, SaskTel incurs significant costs to deliver service to rural locations.

While SaskTel's wireless network does extend to 98 per cent of Saskatchewan's population, there are locations where coverage is either poor or not available.

The range and quality of wireless service always depends upon a number of factors, including but not limited to: weather conditions, terrain, geological and man-made obstructions, distance from wireless towers and hardware device selection. Taking into consideration all of these variables, SaskTel cannot guarantee in-building service.

SaskTel does provide high speed Internet to 100 per cent of Saskatchewan's population through different technologies, which maintain their own sets of limitations and bear different costs for installation and maintenance for each of the types of networks.

Digital Subscriber Line (OSL) Internet service is a distance sensitive technology. As a result, SaskTel is only able to provide SaskTel Basic High Speed Internet Service to a maximum distance of four kilometres from the nearest SaskTel central distribution office (COO). This distance is not measured "as the crow flies"; rather, it is calculated as the actual length the cable travels through the ground as it loops from the COO to individual customers.

SaskTel Satellite Intemet and SaskTel High Throughput Satellite (HTS) Internet Service powered by Xplornet are SaskTel's solutions for customers where DSL is not an effective option. SaskTel made the decision to focus on satellite connections due to the overall cost per customer and the ability to reach most pat1s of the Saskatchewan  population.

SaskTel also offers Internet access via a wireless data stick using cellular technology for those areas where cellular service provides a strong enough signal. Wireless Internet via cellular has the same limitations as regular cellular service.

In 2014, SaskTel launched High Speed Fusion Internet service, a new Long Term Evolution (LTE) fixed.-wireless  product for rural broadband, replacing SaskTel's  Wireless Broadband Internet Service (WBBI) on 55 rural towers.

SaskTel is currently working on a number of other initiatives to enhance communications in rural Saskatchewan. These include:

  • A $57 million initiative from 2013 to 2020 for the installation of new fibre and equipment to upgrade rural transport capacity to accommodate  rural growth of fixed and mobile, voice, video, and data services, as well as provide better reliability and survivability for the existing network.
  • Installation of a fibre backbone for N011h Eastern Saskatchewan
  • Increasing available wireline broadband speeds and services to rural communities. SaskTel will upgrade speeds in 220 existing DSL communities from 2013-2014, as well as expand DSL to 54 more rural communities. Attached is the list of communities­ Appendix A and Appendix B.
  • Improving cellular locations and speeds with LTE: SaskTel  has deployed 4G LTE in Regina, Saskatoon, Balgonie, Clavet, Dundurn, Langham, Lumsden, Martensville, Osler, Pense, Vanscoy, Warman, and White City, Dalmeny, Estevan, Moose Jaw, North Battleford, Prince Albert, Swift Current, Weyburn and Yorkton.

On November 14, 2014, SaskTel announced it will be adding additional capacity by the end of 2014 to its 4G wireless network in 111 communities in rural Saskatchewan. Another seven communities were announced on December 3, 2014. See list of communities in Appendix C.

Communities may wish to review SaskTel's Shared Model Program. The Shared Model Program is designed for Saskatchewan communities that do not have or currently have inadequate service in their area and are not scheduled to receive service under SaskTel's standard selection process and current expansion plan.

Customers or communities pay a portion or all of the required capital costs as determined by SaskTel on a case by case basis. If a community is interested in this option, please contact Bob Hersche, Director of Strategic Business Development, at 306-777-5346.

The Federal Government's imposition of a new regulatory framework for roaming has reduced SaskTel's revenues from other companies roaming on its networks in Saskatchewan by over 90 per cent. This has created a significant revenue shortfall for SaskTel. This shortfall has created further challenges to improve coverage and capacity in Saskatchewan.

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