Sasktel’s Spectrum Acquisition Opens Door for Better Reception in Rural Areas

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SaskTel is looking to improve its wireless services, having acquired a block of 700 MHz spectrum at the recent auction (via the Leader Post). Its $7.5 million purchase is the company’s next step toward better rural coverage, which has been overlooked by other players – until now (see Telus’ commitment to reaching 97% of Canada’s population with the help of its new spectrum licences).

“So there will be some improvement; whether somebody would be able to say, ‘It’s like light versus day!’, I think that would depend on where you are,” said John Meldrum, SaskTel’s vice-president for regulatory affairs.

“In Regina or Saskatoon, I don’t think you’d notice it at all. If you’re out in a piece of wildlife country, somebody might have coverage that they didn’t before.”

The regional player, however, wasn’t fully satisfied with the results: it was after two blocks of spectrum for its inventory. Instead, it got one that isn’t immediately usable, but as the Meldrum pointed out, they do have other spectrum available to continue meeting the needs of their customers.

Meanwhile, the telco needs to find a manufacturer able to supply handsets at competitive prices so it can use its new block of spectrum. It is worth noting, though, that the blocks auctioned in the region have been used by AT&T and Verizon in the US since 2008, so manufacturers won’t need to build handsets especially for Canada.

Considering that some wireless players do have unused spectrum in rural areas, the government has taken several steps to incentivize telcos to deliver wireless coverage in those regions: the industry minister said Ottawa will claim back unused spectrum and, more recently, the government’s minister of state for finance promised $305 million over five years to expand rural access to high-speed broadband networks.

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