Tuesday 30 October 2012

CRTC Directs Stricter Deferral Account Reporting

On 26 Oct 2012, the CRTC directed Bell Canada and Bell Aliant i.e. Bell to submit quarterly reports on the status of their Deferral Account project. They stated the reports must be filed within 15 days after the end of each quarter, beginning with the quarter ending December 2012.

The CRTC took this action in response to the amended report submitted by Bell on 31 Jul 2012 which in effect scrubbed the previous announced implementation schedules and combined the implementation period for about 100 localities to a single date of 31 Aug 2014. This report was also the incentive for my letter to the CRTC in August 2012.

The CRTC expressed concern that, based on the information available, there is a risk that the rollout will not be completed by the end of the rollout period in August 2014.

The letter identifies specific information that must be included in the quarterly reports:

a. A summary of the progress of the rollout;

b. The status of IS/IT system development to support the retail wireless broadband system, including the expected completion date;

c. The status of wireline transport backbone construction, including

i. communities completed with completion date,
ii. communities started with expected completion date, and
ii. communities not started with expected start and completion dates;

d. The status of wireless access construction by community, including the number of

i. towers required,
ii. towers existing or completed,
iii. additional towers with expected start and completion dates, and
iv. towers where electronic augmentation has been completed;

e. The service ready date, achieved or planned, by community.

The quarterly reports are also to include the following:

a. A description of any significant changes to the previous report and reasons for those changes;

b. Information about any delays in radio frequency testing and electronics implementation;

c. A list of communities where negotiations have begun for placement of cell towers for wireless broadband service and the status of such negotiations;

d. A summary of the results of any testing of customers’ wireless broadband service, including effects on the rollout schedule and lessons learned; and

e. The steps the Bell companies are taking to avoid excessive delays due to any of the above.

How much of this information will be made public or how much Bell will claim is competitive or proprietary information and therefore confidential, remains to be seen.

It is unfortunate that the CRTC choose not to issue a directive to Bell to accelerate the roll-out.

It could be a good test of the new CRTC regime’s stated aim to be friendlier to consumers.

Saturday 27 October 2012

New Bell Cell Site Coming to Echo Bay Area

On 26 Oct 2012 Bell announced public consults for a new cell site at Echo Bay in the area of 242 Maple Leaf Road. It will be a 70 metre lattice tri-pole similar to the one at Heyden and shown in the photo.

Like the previously announced new site in the North Sault area, there was no in-service date provided but it normally takes 6-9 months after the public consult for construction to start. Therefore I suspect we are looking at the 2013 work plan output.

Friday 26 October 2012

Bell HSPA+ Working in North Sault Area 25 Oct 12

Bell HSPA+ service in the North sault area appears to be working, at least in the Goulais area. I made a call on late Thursday, 25 Oct 2012 without any problems and again in the next morning. See this blog for additional details about the service and coverage.

Wednesday 24 October 2012

Status of Bell Cell Sites in North Sault 24 Oct 12

There are indications that the activation of the Bell HSPA+ cellular service in the North Sault area is getting closer. I understand the new sites and network access links are currently undergoing tests and if there are no problems, the sites may be commissioned as early as the 26 Oct 2012 weekend. Once I can confirm the sites are working, I will publish a blog entry.

A couple of reminders; the new Bell sites are HSPA+ only and will not work with CDMA technology but Bell CDMA phones will continue to work on the Tbaytel network as they have for the past few years. However, since Bell and Tbaytel are using and operating from their own towers in different locations, the coverage for HSPA+ and CDMA may be different. Although the Bell and Tbaytel towers are in close proximity, other technical features may result in different coverage.

Bell data hubs should work on the new Bell sites. Most external antennas and amplifiers can be used with any brand of data hub although it may be necessary to get a different connector or pigtail to connect the coaxial cable to the data unit.

In comments at this blog entry I speculated as follows about the Bell service in North Sault: - "Based on the map projection I am suspicious that they may be adding a cell configuration to one of their existing towers in the north Batchawana Bay area but this is just a guess." It has now been confirmed that Bell will activate a third site in the area of the Hwy 17/Hwy 563 intersection. Also, the site which I have referred to as Bell Goulais (Buttermilk) , Bell calls Haviland.

In summary, the three new Bell HSPA+ sites are Batchawana Bay, Haviland and Heyden.

  Bell North Sault Coverage and Towers Map Showing Coverage (Brownish) and Tower Locations (Red Stars)
Go to the Bell coverage site  to see a manipulable version of the Bell coverage map.

  Bell Tower Locations North SAult Clearer Picture of Tower Locations (Blue Teardrops)

Tuesday 16 October 2012

CRTC Asks for Public Input to a Wireless/Mobile/Cellular Consumer Code

On 11 Oct 2012, the CRTC issued an invitation to "Canadians to participate in the development of a consumer code for cell phones and other mobile devices." This launches a public consultation to obtain Canadians’ views on a new code for retail wireless services, such as cell phones and other personal mobile devices. The end of the open, public consultation process on 30 Nov 2012 will lead to public hearings to be held in Gatineau, PQ starting on 28 Jan 2013.


This recent announcement is follow-on to the consultation conducted between 04 Apr 2012 and 03 May 2012 on whether or not there was a need for CRTC intervention to ensure competition in the wireless (mobile or cellular sector). As indicated in this blog, the overwhelming public and corporate response indicated some form of federal level control was required but for very different reasons. The general public expressed concern about the one –sided nature of the existing contractual practices which they viewed as favouring the corporations while the corporations expressed concern about the Balkanization of the regulations caused by the provinces adopting their own individual set of regulations which were not always in agreement.

Elaboration of Latest Call for Consultation

The CRTC is seeking input from the public on areas that should be covered by any proposed code for retail wireless service. The CRTC specifically mentioned the following high level areas in their announcement:
a. The terms and conditions that should be addressed by a code for cell phones and mobile devices;
b. to whom the code should apply;
c. how the code should be enforced; and
d. how the code’s effectiveness should be assessed.
The Commission also identified other areas that should be included in the code. This summary list shows some of these areas:
a. Clarity of contract terms and conditions
b. Changes to contract terms and conditions
c. Contract cancellation, expiration and renewal
d. Clarity of advertised prices
e. Application of the Code to bundles of telecommunications services
f. Notification of additional fees
g. Privacy policies
h. Hardware warranties and related issues
i. Loss or theft of hardware
j. Security deposits
k. Disconnection

Additional details about the content of the above list can be found at the CRTC webpage.

Public Participation

The general public may participate in the proceedings by:
b. writing to the Secretary General, CRTC, Ottawa, Ontario, K1A 0N2; or
c. sending a fax to the CRTC at 819-994-0218.

The public inputs are published  at this CRTC website.

Friday 5 October 2012

Deferral Account: Bell Response to CRTC Letter

I received a reply dated 28 Sep 12 from Bell Canada, Regulatory Affairs concerning my letter to the CRTC about further delay in the Deferral Account roll-out  Background information about the letter is at this blog entry as well as the comments section.  The CRTC had directed Bell to respond to me not later than 08 Oct 12.

I have posted a copy of the most recent Bell Canada letter at this location.

The letter rehashes the submission Bell made to the CRTC in July of this year and indicates we can expect nothing in the way of Deferral Account implementation in the Algoma District until end August 2014.

A number of items in the letter caught my attention.

First, by admitting that the standard-speed wireless deployment products, which are  normally referred to as data hubs or HSPA+ broadband technology throughout this blog,  are fundamentally different than the Deferral Account product, it could be interpreted as an admission by Bell Canada  that the former do not meet the benchmark as a viable alternative to the traditional DSL or fibre based service.  Yet Bell is advertising and selling the product as a replacement or alternative service offering, especially in rural areas.  In other words, if one does not live in a Deferral Account area it will not get any better.

Second, I find it ironic that while Bell’s goal as stated in the letter “…is to offer the best possible Internet experience to all customers …” yet they not willing to adjust the rate on what they admit is an inferior product that “…is not technically designed to serve as a direct substitute…”.   In a logic that turns conventional thinking on its head, Bell implies that it cannot offer reduced rates because it is providing a poorer quality service.

I will continue to monitor the Deferral Account program to see where it goes from here.