The province launched a four-phase initiative this week to provide rural communities with enhanced access to reliable cellular and high-speed Internet services.
Lack of access has been a concern for many rural residents and has affected economic development. This initiative plans on ensuring rural communities have the communications tools needed to attract and retain residents, meet the needs of local businesses and encourage greater investment in their community.
Premier Brad Wall spoke extensively this year about making sure rural communities had better service.
“Providing rural areas of our province with world-class communications services continues to be a priority for our government,” Wall said. “Having access to the latest technology is critical to Saskatchewan’s ability to compete and prosper in the national and global economies.”
The initiative consists of four phases:
Phase 1: SaskTel will lead the way with an investment of $4.2 million to expand its High Speed Fusion Internet network to 34 additional rural locations in the province, bringing the number of Fusion equipped towers to 102.
Deployment of these Phase 1 improvements is already underway, with SaskTel committed to launching six of these High Speed Fusion equipped towers in the vicinities of Aberdeen, Allan, Dundurn, Marshall, Silver Park and Weyburn by the end of January 2018. The remaining towers will be in service by spring 2018.
Phase 2: SaskTel will commence deployment of a small cell site solution to provide improved cellular services in 100 rural communities. Early in the new year, SaskTel will begin announcing locations for new sites as they become finalized. Once construction begins, SaskTel expects to complete the deployment of all small cell sites by the end of 2020.
Phase 3: SaskTel will engage in enhancing co-operation with independent providers in Saskatchewan with the goal of increasing opportunities to improve rural wireless services in rural Saskatchewan.
Phase4: Identify coverage gaps in rural Saskatchewan, which will help SaskTel formulate a broad expansion of wireless services.
The full implementation of the plan is expected to take five years, with the first two phases completed by 2020.
In addittion, SaskTel has applied to the federal government’s Connect to Innovate program to access funding to equip 17 additional towers with High Speed Fusion Internet service.
Should funding be approved, the total number of Fusion equipped towers in the province will rise to 119.