Telus Pauses Fibre Expansion in One City in Alberta, Blames Huawei

Telus has attributed its pause in constructing the fibre optic network in St. Albert and other regions of Alberta to the federal government’s ban on China’s Huawei. The suspension raises concerns over the impact of such sanctions on the connectivity of smaller communities, reports The Globe and Mail.

The delay prevents numerous St. Albert neighbourhoods, a city of approximately 70,000 residents, from accessing Telus’ PureFibre home internet network. Vancouver-based Telus had initially pledged a $100 million investment in 2019 to link over 90% of St. Albert’s homes and businesses to its fibre optic network by the end of 2020.

Joanne Graham, St. Albert’s Director of Information Technology, disclosed to city councillors last month that Telus had suspended its PureFibre construction in all Alberta communities, except those where the company has a contract or a partnership with the municipality. She pointed out high inflation, interest rates, and primarily the federal government’s ban on Huawei technology as major reasons behind Telus’ decision.

Telus told the city on April 28 that the PureFibre pause would be “in all communities in Alberta with the exception of communities where they had a contract or a partnership with the municipality,” reports The Globe.

“They have had to dismantle the Huawei infrastructure on all of their antennas and so primarily we’re seeing pressures on the capital that they had available for all the builds across Alberta,” she explained.

Telus had chosen Ericsson and Nokia as suppliers for its 5G network in 2020, abandoning previous plans to use Huawei equipment for the rollout. The company, which had used Huawei equipment in its 3G and 4G networks, warned that banning Huawei might delay and inflate the cost of its 5G network deployment.

St. Albert councillor Mike Killick highlighted the disruption this pause has caused among residents, especially those in older neighbourhoods awaiting the benefits of faster internet speeds and improved reliability.

A motion passed at the council urged Mayor Cathy Heron to pen a letter to Telus requesting the fulfillment of its original commitment. Killick shared that many frustrated residents are eager for this service, and are disappointed with the suspension in their neighbourhoods.

In a statement to The Globe, Telus vowed to keep St. Albert’s residents, businesses, and customers updated on the progress of its PureFibre rollout. However, the company did not comment on the effect of the Huawei ban or when and where else in Alberta it has halted its fibre network build. The company said it has finished over two-thirds of its PureFibre rollout in St. Albert.

Associate Professor Gregory Taylor from the University of Calgary’s communications, media, and film department said that Telus should have been better prepared for the impact of Canada’s Huawei ban. He also suggested that Telus’ allegations regarding the Huawei ban might be a ploy to cut its expenditure amidst decreased profits.

Last month, Telus announced it would be investing $19 billion across Alberta over the next five years.

Update June 14, 2023: Telus said in a statement to iPhone in Canada that it has “not paused” its PureFibre builds in Alberta. The company did not address other communities where the PureFibre rollout has been paused, but did reiterate St. Albert’s PureFibre build is at two-thirds complete.

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