Tuesday 24 December 2013

Bell Deferral Account Report for Third Quarter 2013

Bell submitted the third quarterly Deferral Account update report to the CRTC on 15 Oct 2013. For some inexplicable reason, the CRTC released the public version of the report under a different file folder number than previous quarterly reports and it took some effort to locate it. 

For the uninitiated, there are two versions of the quarterly reports. A fully detailed report with actual facts and figures is submitted to the CRTC for internal use and a redacted report with most facts and  information which may be of interest to the public (or according to Bell – the competition) replaced by # signs.  This is allowed under terms of the Telecommunications Act and CRTC policy.

The actual statement of justification as used by Bell in their submission is:

“Release of this information would provide potential competitors with invaluable competitively-sensitive information that would not otherwise be available to them, and which would enable them to develop more effective business strategies.  Release of such information could prejudice Bell Canada's competitive position resulting in material financial loss and cause specific direct harm to Bell Canada.”

I have not figured out how not listing a tower location on a spread sheet prevents a competitor from seeing a 90 metre tower with cellular antennas that is visible from a public road and deducing some competitively-sensitive information.

Like previous reports, the latest one provides little actual information which can be applied to the Algoma District situation. The target date for completion of the project is still August 2014. It was possible to glean more information through backdoor resources and physical observation during drive abouts as noted in previous blog entries.

Apparently the CRTC also has concerns with the Bell reporting content. Consequently, in a letter dated 16 Dec 2013, they directed Bell to submit additional information in their reports as follows: 

“The Commission notes that there are still many activities to be completed within the next nine months and that, more specifically, construction of wireline transport backbone to 17 approved communities must be both started and finished within the first eight months of 2014 in order to meet the August deadline.

The Commission also notes that the Bell companies indicated in their July 2012 report that they needed to provide most consumers with an external antenna to deliver quality service. However, no update on this situation was provided in subsequent reports.

Consequently, the Commission directs the Bell companies, in their 15 January 2014 report, to
a) update their risk assessment and mitigation strategy for the last eight months of the rollout, and
b) provide a summary of any evaluations of the service quality delivered to consumers using the external antenna in deferral-account-funded communities.

Further, the Commission directs the Bell companies, beginning in their January 2014 report and continuing in subsequent quarterly reports, to refine their forecast for the period of January to August 2014 by

1. specifying, for each of the remaining communities, in which month 
a. the remaining towers are to be completed (column H) [1],
b. construction of wireline transport is expected to start (column J),
c. construction of wireline transport is expected to be completed (column K), and 
d. service will begin (column L), versus specifying a single date of August 2014 for all communities; and

2. providing a summary of the number of new towers forecasted to be completed in 2014, by month.

Additionally, in their subsequent quarterly reports, the Bell companies are to identify where any changes have been made to the forecasted month for each of the items in 1. above.

Unfortunately, I suspect the information of true interest will be marked by a # in the public documents. 

The next quarterly report is due on 15 Jan 2014

[1] The reference to columns refers to columns in the Bell report spreadsheet headings.

Sunday 15 December 2013

Bell Data Hub Overages and the Wireless Code

I have been exchanging e-mail with a user in East Algoma about the high cost of Bell data hub service.  He was getting monthly bills in the $200.00 - $350.00 range for a 4 user household with a mix of computers and smartphones.   All the hardware used the data hub’s WiFi capability when they were within range.

Of late, he was getting cutting off at $100.00 overage and had to contact Bell to get reconnected.

Needless to say, he was not happy with both the price and the procedures.

I received the following info from him recently:

“I just received my Dec Bell bill and low and behold the max charge for data over 10 GB is $50.00.
We used $197 worth and they only charged $50 for that and waived $147.50.
Our bill for the month is $96.05; Relief finally.
I was suspicious and call them. It’s due to the CRTC Wireless Code.”  

This is the section of the Wireless Code that would seem to apply in this case:

          Sec 3 - Cap on data overage charges

        A service provider must suspend data overage charges once they
      reach $50 within a single monthly billing cycle, unless the customer 
      expressly consents to pay additional charges.

      A service provider must provide this cap at no charge.

My interpretation of this section was that once the cap was within reach during a billing cycle, the vendor would contact the user, normally by e-mail or SMS, notify them of the cap limit coming into force and warning this would result in a cancellation of service until the end of the billing cycle unless the user gave explicit permission to charge additional overage fees.

Indeed, this is what was happening prior to 02 Dec 2013 when the CRTC Wireless Code came into effect.

It will be interesting to see what happens with the January billing cycle.

If this is in fact the long term Bell policy for handling data hub overages, it will certainly be of tremendous benefit to rural broadband (high speed) Internet users.  

Friday 15 November 2013

Tbaytel's Seasonal Service

I recently sent a query to the Tbaytel Community Forum concerning the availability of a seasonal service option for Tbaytel customers in the Algoma District. You may view the full query and the Tbaytel response at this link.

In short, Tbaytel offers a seasonal service option for “HSPA Wireless Service” (Rocket/data hub) and “Regional Internet (Canopy) Service”.  They recommended I contact Tbaytel Customer Care at 1-888-264-9501 for additional information.

I could not find any reference to this offering on the Tbaytel website. This is unfortunate. 

Thursday 7 November 2013

More Deferral Account Update Info 07 Nov 13

Another Bell Deferral Account site is under construction in the Goulais River area. It is located near the intersection of Hwy 552 East and Bellevue Valley Road. It looks like it will be a self-supporting tripole similar to the one at Heyden Beaumont.  This map shows the location of all the known Deferral Account tower sites in the Goulais River and the St. Joseph Island area.

I gleaned this information from the public domain by means of first person reports of construction, notices about public consultation and by driving around the area.

If anyone knows of any other sites, I would appreciate it if you could let me know. I am articulately interested in happenings in the Echo Bay Deferral Account area but information about any new site will be gladly accepted.

Unfortunately, Bell has not been very forthcoming lately with their Deferral Account information.

Web Page Size Shows Significant Increase

While doing some research to answer a recent question from a reader about data charges and data caps, I came across some updated statistics on webpage sizes as measures in bytes. This is an area I had not looked at for some time. What struck me was how much the average webpage size had increased.

According to the HTTPArchive website, the average page size as of 01 Nov 2013 was 1.6 MB (megabyte).  This compares to 14 KB in 1995, 93 KB in 2003, 300 KB in 2008, 828 KB in 2012 and 1.2 MB in Jun 2013. Some commentators are expecting a page size of close to 5 MB by 2015 or sooner.

The authors attribute the significant growth of page size to improved hardware, in particular the high resolution screens used by tablets together with high resolution cameras and smartphones.  Extensive us of Flash and Java on web pages also contributes.

A few years ago web designers would build to the lowest common denominator screen size but now they tend to use more uncompressed images to fill the space on the high resolution screens. Social media users are posting images directly from their cameras and smartphones without any editing or compression. In both cases this results in images having a file size of several MB instead of less than 100 KB which is sufficient for routine viewing. In image intensive applications this can add up quickly.

What does this all mean? If you have an Internet plan without any data caps, not very much. Unfortunately, most of us have to live with fixed data caps and associated extraordinarily expensive overage fees – think $10 to $15 per GB. .

So not only are we using the Internet more either voluntarily or because in some instances it is the only way to get service but the data we are transferring is increasing in size without providing any incremental increase in information. 

Wednesday 23 October 2013

Goulais Deferral Account Update 23 Oct 2013

The Bell Deferral Account (Deferral Account) project roll out is bearing fruit in the Goulais river area. The aim of the DA project is to provide cellular based broadband (high speed) Internet with the same speed and data caps as Bell’s urban DSL service. The Goulais River Deferral Account area is shown in purple on this map. 

Additional information about the Bell DA project can be found at this site.

There are currently three Bell cell sites in the North Sault area providing cover along the Hwy 17 corridor including the part running through the DA area.  There is an existing site at the Buttermilk Hill area. To provide the necessary radio signal coverage in the DA and to handle the expected traffic loads without congestion, additional towers/cell sites are required. One of these towers is under construction  on the Pine Shore Road area as shown on this screen shot as a red dot.

These pictures were taken on 23 Oct 2013 while the tower was still under construction.

 From Pine Shore site access road 

From Grant Road 

It is known that there are additional sites planned for the Nils Bay and the Marlette Bay areas. There may also be other locations. 

Friday 18 October 2013

Telus Is Shutting Down Their EV-DO Data Network

As first reported in this blog entry, it is now confirmed Telus is taking the initial steps to decommission its CDMA network.  Effective 31 March 2014, Telus will discontinue EV-DO data service on the CDMA network in all of BC and AB (excluding Edmonton and Calgary.)  There is no news about the rest of Canada.

EV-DO stands for either Enhanced Voice-Data Optimized or Enhanced Voice-Data Only depending on the company using the abbreviation. The standard went through a number of revisions but was eventually overcome by the much faster HSPA and LTE protocols. EV-DO achieved theoretical download speeds starting at 2.4 Mbps, then 3.1 Mbps and finally 14.7 Mbps. A far cry from the 75 to 100 Mbps range claimed for LTE.

Telus is offering affected users in BC and AB outside Edmonton and Calgary an exchange deal to upgrade to HSPA hardware.  

Telus is planning to completely shut down the remainder of their CDMA network at some unspecified date in 2015.

There is still no indication of what impact this action by Telus will have on the CDMA networks operated by Bell, Tbaytel or Public. 

However, since Bell and Telus share their CDMA networks across the country, so it is hard to see how the decommissioning could not help but affect the Bell network.

There is also the question of whether or not the CRTC or Industry Canada (IC) will take any action in the matter. As noted, the new entrant Public relies on the CDMA networks to offer nationwide service. Without the ability to roam on the Bell and Telus networks, it seems doubtful if Public can survive. Only time will tell.

Monday 7 October 2013

Bell Site at North City Limit Operational

The Bell site at the city limits north on Hwy 17 located behind the old Greenbelt bingo hall as reported in this blog entry is finally operational. 

Monday 30 September 2013

Bell Aliant FibreOP Roll Out Sault Ste Marie

I recently attended a presentation by the Bell Aliant manager with overall responsibility for Bell’s Fibre to the Home (FTTH) or FibreOP project in Sault Ste. Marie.  FibreOP brings an end-to-end fibre optic connection from the core network to a demarcation point (or demarc) on the customer’s premise. Connectivity within the house is provided by Cat 5 or 6 cables, a standard wireless router or a combination of media.

You will note that it is Bell Aliant and not Bell or BCE that is responsible for the project. Bell Aliant was originally formed to serve the Maritime Provinces by combining the former provincial based operating entities into one. In 2006, parts of Ontario and Quebec were added to the mix, including Northern Telecom and Télébec, with the intent of forming an Income Trust. When new federal regulations came into effect prohibiting Income Trusts, Bell Aliant remained as the principal operating company in the affected area.  

After a successful roll-out of FibreOP in major Atlantic area cities, Bell Aliant decided to roll out the product in the four largest cities in Northeastern Ontario. The Bell Aliant parent company, BCE, issued a press release on 22 May 2013 announcing the project for Sault Ste. Marie.  

The plan is to have FibreOP passing about 50% of the residences in the Sault within the next two years. FibreOP is a residential, as opposed to a commercial, product line. It is intended for residential buildings with four or less units with the emphasis on single unit dwellings.  The project is not proposed for larger multi-unit complexes at this time.

The preferred construction method is aerial cable on existing pole-lines. This is an economically driven decision. This means, if your area of the city has buried or underground cable distribution, it is highly unlikely FibreOP will be coming to your neighbourhood in the near future. 

The plan is to roll out FibreOP from Bell’s downtown location in three phases over the next couple of years. The first will be towards the East end, then the West end and finally the North Central area.

Because of the lengthy construction period and somewhat sketchy coverage, there will not be an extensive marketing effort per se. Areas served by FibreOP will be made aware of the fact by targetted advertising and door-to-door notification.

FibreOP offers three major services: - FibreOP lnternet, FibreOP TV, and FibreOP Home Phone. These services are available as a bundle or individually. 

FibreOP Internet comes in two levels with download/upload speeds of 20/15 Mbps; or 50/30 Mbps. There are no cap limits on the amount of data transfer.

FibreOP TV has up to 223 channels and various hardware offerings available.

Full details of the plans are available at the FibreOP website.


Thursday 26 September 2013

CRTC Isses 2013 Edition of Its Communications Monitoring Report

The CRTC released the 2013 edition of its annual Communications Monitoring Report today.

The report summarizes the status of the consumer telecommunications industry in Canada.

The full report can be read or downloaded from this site. A standalone executive summary can be found at this page.

A number of infographics summaries are also available:

Tuesday 24 September 2013

Is CDMA a Dying Breed?

There are reports that Telus is considering decommissioning their CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) network within the next two years.  Telus, Bell and Tbaytel currently operate or share CDMA networks in the Algoma District although any new Bell sites constructed since the activation of the Desbarats site in Dec 2010 have not included CDMA capabilities.

The reasons espoused include a diminishing customer base as users switch to smartphones and data,  lack of new handsets with improved capabilities and the chance to reuse the freed up spectrum for HSPA (High Speed Packet Access) and LTE (Long Term Evolution) expansion

Bell and Telus jointly built and converted their primary networks to HSPA in time for the Vancouver Olympics in 2010 and subsequently have been rolling out LTE upgrades. 

In general terms, the new sophisticated smartphones are not amenable to CDMA although there are smartphone model available that will operate in both CDMA and HSPA modes. They are just not available in Canada at this time.

This is one of the features that Verizon would have brought to Canada as they still operate the biggest CDMA network in North America and have CDMA/HSPA/LTE tri-mode phones – for a price. Verizon has indicated they will operate their CDMA network until at least 2021 but like everything in the mobile phone business it is likely subject to change on short notice.

CDMA is often the technology of choice for users who want just voice and limited texting capable in their phones.  Various reports indicate there are about 1Million plus users of CDMA phones in Canada. Many experts consider CDMA the Sony Beta of the industry in that the better technology but lost out in the end.

The carriers need to be careful if they do not want to anger their customer base as they did with their last major network decommissioning when they shut down the analogue networks. At least one western regional carrier is getting their customers ready for an adjustment by offering free exchange of CDMA phones for HSPA to LTE phones. 

Potential Participants in Canadian 700 MHz Spectrum Auction

This is the complete list as published by Industry Canada of the applicants for participation in the 700 MHz spectrum auction to be held in early 2014. The list includes all the major national carriers as well as the principal regional carriers which in the case of the Algoma District include Bell, Rogers and Telus and the regional carrier Tbaytel.
  • ·       1770129 Alberta Inc.
  • ·         Bell Mobility Inc.
  • ·         BH Wave Acquisition Corporation
  • ·         Bragg Communications Incorporated
  • ·         Feenix Wireless Inc.
  • ·         Globalive Wireless Management Corp.
  • ·         MTS Inc.
  • ·         Novus Wireless Inc.
  • ·         Rogers Communications Partnership
  • ·         Saskatchewan Telecommunications
  • ·         TBayTel
  • ·         TELUS Communications Company
  • ·         The Catalyst Capital Group Inc.
  • ·         Vecima Networks Inc.
  • ·         Vidéotron s.e.n.c.

If one connects to this Industry Canada page it has more information about each vendor including a link to the details of the beneficial ownership of each applicant.

The list also includes a number of lesser know vendors that may be interested in very specific regions or perhaps the unpaired spectrum which will be very good for fixed wireless broadband applications. See this blog entry for details of the blocks and the regions covered.

After many weeks and days of speculation, no foreign carriers submitted applications although a couple of foreign companies show up in the beneficial ownership listings.  Also missing were the two carriers formed as a result of the last auction in 2008, namely Mobilicity and Public Mobile. However, Mr. John Bitove who is President and CEO of Mobilicity is listed as a principal of Feenix Wireless Inc. Also The Catalyst Capital Group Inc is financially connected to Mobility

To get on the list, a company had to make a refundable pre-auction deposit of 5% based on projected costs of the spectrum as produced by the government. The next step in the process is scheduled for 22 Oct 2013 when Industry Canada publishes the final list of qualified bidders. The bidders then have until 29 Oct 2013 to submit the remaining 95% of the necessary pre-auction deposits.

Wednesday 14 August 2013

Shaw Go WiFi Status in Sault Ste Marie

Judging by the number of times the network “Shaw Open” is showing up during WiFi network scans in Sault Ste Marie, it appears the roll-out of the Shaw WiFi network is going extremely well.

In September, 2011 Shaw announced it was cancelling its plans to enter the cell network marketplace. In its stead, they proposed a WiFi network based on backhaul connectivity through the company’s broadband network. In the industry this is known as mobile data off-loading where data that would normally transit a cellular radio network uses a fibre optic or other broadband network instead.  Recent studies show that the amount of off-loaded traffic is approaching 50% in some jurisdictions. This frees up valuable, and expensive, radio spectrum for more real-time applications such as voice. It also means a user does not need to use expensive cellular (mobile) plan megabytes to view data intensive apps like videos.

Shaw branded their product as Shaw Go WiFi.

The Shaw Go WiFi consists of a large number of WiFi hotspots located throughout an area covered by a Shaw cable plant. Shaw provides the hotspots free to all manner of businesses, offices, public buildings, etc. in the target area.  The ultimate goal is provide as complete coverage of a locale as possible. The system is network agile which means it has the capability to hand-off active connections between hotspots as long as they have an overlapping electronic footprint.   Sources inform me that the maps of the WiFi locations have about a two week lag period from the installation date until they show up on the map.

To access the system, a user needs to be a Shaw customer, have a @shaw.ca email address and be registered through the Shaw Go WiFi website.  You can have more than one device registered. A device is a cellphone, tablet, laptop or any other hardware that can connect to a WiFi network. The number of devices a user can register varies from as few as three to as many as 10 depending on the level of Shaw Internet service you subscribe to. The details are available in the FAQ area on the website.  

The use of the network is free but data usage is charged against the data cap in the plan the device is registered under.

As noted, as of this point in time, you can only use the system if you have a @shaw.ca account. If you live outside the Shaw Internet coverage are, you are out of luck. There are a couple of work arounds. One is to establish Shaw account within the nearest coverage area. This can get a bit pricey as the cheapest Internet price is $50.00, after the $30 introductory offer, for 125 GB of data. Another option is have a friend or relation register your device on their plan and either depend on their kindness to cover your data usage or offer to reimburse them based on your data usage. In the above example the cost for data is 40 cents per gigabyte.

There is little doubt that Shaw Go WiFi is an example of the direction mobile networks are moving as data uses increase exponentially and radio spectrum becomes harder to acquire and more expensive.   While the technology works very well in urban areas, it is less advantageous to rural areas that do not have the underlying backhaul infrastructure or population density.

Tuesday 13 August 2013

Tbaytel Data Hub Roaming

It appears the Tbaytel data hub roaming is back in business – kind of.  I gleaned the following from the Tbaytel Community Forum website. 
  • The Tbaytel policy of only selling Tbaytel data hubs to users for use in the Tbaytel coverage area still applies. This means that unless you have an address north of approximately 6th Line in Sault Ste. Marie they will not sell you a rocket hub. This is in compliance with the Rogers/Tbaytel operating agreement.
  •  As sold, the Tbaytel data hub is blocked from directly accessing the Rogers network through a Rogers’s site infrastructure. In other words it can only access a Tbaytel tower/site. However, Tbaytel will unblock the data hub so you can use it in roam mode while travelling. This is done by calling Customer Care at 807-623-4400. I would be prepared to cite the Tbaytel-Roy thread on the Community Forum as the source for the request. The unblocking setting will remain in force until you ask Tbaytel to change it back
  • Tbaytel does offer some good advice about being sure to ensure the US and International Data Block remains in place after the domestic roam feature is activated. Otherwise you may get very large roaming charges if operating near the US/Canada border both north and east of Sault Ste. Marie. In any case, one should confirm what network one is connected to periodically if you are using a data hub in an area that may incur roaming charges.

Data hubs acquired directly from Rogers can roam the Tbaytel network at will and without modification. When I had my Rogers data hub, it was blocked from roaming outside Canada so international roaming was not an issue.

Saturday 10 August 2013

Observations on the Canadian 700 MHz Auction


There has been considerable buzz about the possible entry of the US cellular company Verizon into the Canadian marketplace. This has been generated by hints that Verizon may purchase one or more of the new entrants formed as a result of the AWS (Advanced Wireless Service) frequency auction in 2008 – namely Mobilicity, Public and Wind. Verizon is able to do this because foreign ownership of cellular companies with less than 10% of market share is permitted. The AWS companies meet this criterion. 

Where this gets interesting is that although a purchaser likes Verizon may be huge when compared to the total Canadian market, by purchasing existing operators, Verizon will still be considered a new entrant. This means that Verizon will be able to take full advantage of the special considerations afforded new entrants, in particular spectrum allocation, tower sharing, and roaming agreements.

Needless to say the incumbents are not happy with this state of affairs and have been crowing loud and long about the unfairness of it all with all three CEO’s issuing statements and threats within the last few days about how the market will suffer if Verizon is allowed to proceed and enter Canada.

Vidéotron has now joined the chorus for reasons I cannot fathom because they are considered a new entrant as well as a regional carrier and are fully protected by some of the auction rules.
Auction Blocks

The main driver for this outburst of high dudgeon is the upcoming 700 MHz auction. Some background information may help understand the situation.

When Canada (and the US) converted from analogue to digital television a few years ago, it freed up a considerable amount of radio spectrum in the 700 MHz band and it became available for use by cellular services.

In Canada, the available frequency spread was divided into blocks as shown in this chart. The channel numbers at the top of the chart refer to the old TV channel numbers. Channel 51 is still an operational channel and it has the potential to interfere with the lower Block A frequencies. This makes Block A spectrum a little less value. For auction purposes, four blocks are considered “prime” and come with some restrictions as will be explained later.  These are Blocks B, C, C1 and C2.
 Canadian plan for the bands 698-756 MHz and 777-787 MHz

 This is the key information in an easier to read format.

The following frequency blocks will be available for the 700 MHz auction:
698-704 MHz/728-734 MHz
6+6 MHz
704-710 MHz/734-740 MHz
6+6 MHz
710-716 MHz/740-746 MHz
6+6 MHz
716-722 MHz
6 MHz
722-728 MHz
6 MHz
777-782 MHz/746-751 MHz
5+5 MHz
782-787 MHz/751-756 MHz
5+5 MHz

Paired means that there are two blocks separated by sufficient bandwidth to allow one block for download and one block for upload.

Unpaired means the block is standalone and is most valuable for one way transmission.

Coverage Areas
The auction rules set license boundaries for coverage areas.  As explained on the Industry Canada/Spectrum Branch website, these areas, called tiers, are based on Statistics Canada’s Census Divisions and Subdivisions. Four tier sizes have been established to accommodate various wireless services, applications and frequency bands.
·         Tier 1 is a single national service area;
·         Tier 2 consists of 14 large service areas;
·         Tier 3 consists of 59 smaller regional service areas; and
·         Tier 4 comprises 172 localized service areas.

For the upcoming auctions, Tier 2 boundaries will apply.  Northern Ontario is considered one of the 14 large service areas.

There are a total of 7 frequency blocks available for each Tier 2 area. However, the incumbent carriers may only purchase one prime block per area while new entrants can purchase two prime blocks per area. For auction purchases, regional carriers such as Tbaytel, Vidéotron, and EastLink are considered new entrants and may bid on two prime blocks.  This means in theory, one incumbent vendor will be excluded from prime blocks in each Tier 2 area.  

There is nothing in the rules which prevent one or more of the incumbents developing a frequency or network sharing agreements as long as it is made public before the start of the auction. Rogers and Vidéotron have such an agreement now but they have not formally stated it will extend to the auction. None of the incumbents have joint LTE operating agreements, or at least any visible in the public domain.

Where it gets interesting is if we look at how these prime blocks are used in the US marketplace. AT&T uses the B and C blocks while Verizon uses C1 and C2 blocks. This usage becomes critical when Canadian carriers workout roaming deals with US carriers; the handsets need to match the frequencies. There is also the issue of roaming default hierarchy. While both AT&T and Verizon have LTE networks, it is not always available and connections default to older, and often slower, standards. AT&T phones default LTE to HSPA to GSM which is the standard used by Rogers and most of the Canadian new entrants. Verizon phones tend to default downward to their CDMA core network which is the standard used by Bell, Telus and Public.

Most smartphones sold in Canada default to GSM, even the ones sold by Bell. This is why Bell smartphones have limited network access between Sault Ste. Marie and Thunder Bay. While Verizon sells smartphones that can default to CDMA as well as HSPA, I am not aware of any that are sold in Canada.  My Samsung Galaxy SII defaults to AT&T or T-Mobile when in the US. Apple iPhones react likewise.

The bottom line is many observers feel that if Verizon follows through on the auction, they will go after the CI and C2 blocks which they are able to do under the two block rule in order to maintain compatibility with their US operations.

Tier 2 Areas

Northern Ontario Tier 2-09

 Technology Roll Out

The auction also has rules concerning roll out of advanced technology in rural areas. Incumbents and new entrants who either purchase or have access to two paired blocks (not necessarily prime blocks) are required to provide 700 MHz coverage within 5 or 7 years to cover 90% and 97% respectively of the area their HSPA coverage provide in 2012. 

In effect, this means the new entrants have minuscule urban areas to cover while the incumbents have to cover about 75% of the country. The regional carriers are somewhere in between.

The only pressure on the new incumbents is that they must provide coverage within 10 years to a range of 20% to 50% depending on the geographical area. For Northern Ontario it is 50%.  Unfortunately, this can be achieved without providing any new technology or 700 MHz coverage in rural areas and by simply upgrading urban networks.

That is not to say they will not; just that they do not have to.  However, using the 700 MHz band blocks on existing or co-shared towers in rural area would allow for greater coverage while repurposing the most expensive part of the necessary infrastructure, the towers and ancillary structures. On the flip side of the coin, lower frequencies like 700 MHz can handle les bandwidth than the higher frequencies so congestion may quickly become a problem.  In summary, higher frequencies equal more bandwidth but less coverage while lower frequencies equal more coverage but less bandwidth.

The auctions rules also state that all network operate must allow network roaming and share tower by all service providers. This means a new entrant like Verizon can advertise and offer full national coverage on one of the incumbent networks without spending any capital for network infrastructure. They will have to pay the infrastructure owners reasonable rates in accordance with CRTC and Industry Canada directives. There are some hardware challenges and technology issues that need to be resolved but these are not insurmountable. 

Tuesday 23 July 2013

Cellular Vendors Introducing Two Year Contracts

The incumbent cellular vendors are getting a jump on the new CRTC Wireless Code which comes into effect in December of this year, 2013, and the two year contract provisions the Code contains.

Even while they fight some of the Code’s clauses in Federal Court, they are introducing 2 year contracts over the next few weeks.

For vendors offering full local service in the Algoma District, the following dates apply:

a. Bell - July 17
b. Telus - July 30
c. Fido and Rogers - August 9

As of this date of writing, there is no indication if Tbaytel will adopt the 2 year model but I would be extremely surprised if they did not.

If anyone is in the market for a new cellular phone, one might want to check out the new rates as well as the terms and conditions.  There are adjustments to the price structure, especially in the amount if the upfront payment required. Not all phones are available with a two year option at this time.

Also, the “tab” concept appears on its way to becoming the preferred method of subsidy payback. As I understand the concept, instead of the customer paying a large onetime fee upfront, the non-subsidized amount is spread out over the length of the contract at a monthly rate. There are numerous variations of the concept and users should take care to ensure they understand the concept for the contract they are signing. 

Friday 19 July 2013

New Cell Site Locations on St. Joseph Island

Bell recently published notifications of public consultations for four cell sites on St. Joseph Island. While the advertisements do not specifically mention Deferral Account sites, other sources indicate that this is the case. The public notification and consultation is required in accordance with the Industry Canada procedures CPC-2-0-03.

The two northern sites (marked one and two below) are 61 metre self –supporting towers while the two southern sites (marked as three and four below) are 76 metre self-supporting towers.

There is no indication when the sites will be built or when they will become operational. However, the target date for completion and full operational status of the Deferral Account project is Aug 31, 2014.  

The public consultation times and locations are:

  1. Sites One and Two -  Tuesday 23 Jul 2013 at 7:00 PM at Royal Canadian Legion,  1834 10th Side Road, Richards Landing

  1. Sites Three and Four - Wednesday 24 Jul 2013 at 7:00 PM at the Jocelyn Recreation Hall, 1125 P Line.

In a related matter, I have heard rumours that Rogers is sniffing around the Island looking for sites. If anyone has heard any details, please let me know.