The TbayTel mobile unit was in operation at Blues Fest last weekend.
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Cell sites and towers, not mobile units, will be the solution to TbayTel’s network problems, says the company’s CEO.
The local utility unveiled one of its three new mobile units on Canada Day in order to minimized some of the strain on the network. The company had another mobile unit at Blues Fest to serve an area expected to host an increased number of mobile phone users.
The company purchased three of the units as a temporary fix in order to improve coverage in certain areas of the city.
Some of the worst areas reported in the city for coverage include Northwood, Current River, areas in Westfort, the intercity area and near Confederation College.
But in order to have a permanent solution, president and CEO Don Campbell said they will need to put up more towers and cell sites.
“The Cellular-on-wheels mobile cell site will be used where we have particular concerns, but which the permanent solutions aren’t necessarily fast enough,” Campbell said.
“For instance if a tower is required there’s a public consultation process but it doesn’t change the problem that a tower is required. (The mobile units) are low, not as effective but nonetheless do provide the service in these particular areas. They become a portable, temporary fix that allows us to do the right things in the public and the right things on the buildings.”
He said he wasn’t sure if they would be deploying the COWs in the weaker areas but they will remain an option for the company.
The permanent solution is placing a cell site in the area or in the case of a residential area like Northwood which doesn’t have many two or three storey buildings to give a good signal, a cell tower is needed, he said.
Around one per cent of calls made in the city are dropped with the vast majority going through.
Across the city and the region, they have about 125 cell sites but Campbell didn’t know offhand how many cell towers TbayTel has.
Campbell mentioned there are alternatives to cell sites that are already up and running.
Two examples he gave were the in building sites at the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre and the Thunder Bay International Airport. Those two sites take some of the traffic off the network.
The company raised its invest into the 4G wireless network to more than $9 million. The move was because of the huge demand on the network, Campbell said.
TbayTel has about 100,000 customers in the city and in the region and in order to provide the best service possible, placing new towers and cell sites may have in the near future, he said.
“We’re installing in building cell sites where a lot of people congregate,” he said.
“We’re going to install low height, cell locations on two or three storey buildings. And if only a cell tower will do we will go through public consultation.”
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