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Cantel, Bell eye the Sault for expansions of cellular networks.

Cantel, Bell eye the Sault for expansions of cellular networks

Plans to provide all of Northern Ontario with cellular telephone service are in the works.

Sudbury and North Bay are currently the only Northern Ontario centres with cellular phone service.

Ron Irvine, Northern Ontario district manager for Bell Cellular, said plans are currently in the works for an expansion into Sault Ste. Marie. However, nothing has been finalized.

Irvine reported that the communications service company has a "rough idea" when the service will be expanded to the Sault, but it will not make an announcement until plans are finalized.

"It is corporate policy not to say anything," said Irvine.

Jim Williams, district sales manager with Cantel Inc., reported that Cantel's mandate is to link every centre (in Canada) along Highway 17 over the next two years.

"Our mandate is to link the centres along the Trans-Canada over a three-year period starting September of 1989," said Williams.

Cantel's service currently extends from Barrie to North Bay along Highway 11 and from North Bay to Sudbury along Highway 17. Plans to extend the service directly from the south to Sudbury are immediate.

"We should have cellular service direct from Barrie to Sudbury along the Highway 69 corridor by August," Williams explained.

He said work on the Highway 69 corridor is currently more than half complete.

Bell Cellular already offers the service along Highway 69. Irvine estimated that the cost of providing the service from Toronto through Sudbury to North Bay was $20 million.

"The cost of providing cellular service is substantial," he said.

Williams said an extension of Cantel's Winnipeg service to Thunder Bay is currently underway and that an extension of service from Sudbury to the Sault is in the planning stages.

Williams explained that Cantel's strategy is to first supply areas with the most subscriptions.

Williams said connecting the two cities will require the construction of cellular sites approximately every 50 miles, at a cost of roughly $1 million per site.

Although cellular service exists only in Sudbury and North Bay and along the connecting routes, response to the service, said Irvine, has been phenomenal.

Both representatives said response to the service has far exceeded the projections made in 1989 when it was introduced to Sudbury and North Bay.

"Sudbury and North Bay have taken off much better than anyone thought," insisted Irvine.

Commenting on the length of time it is taking to provide the service in the remainder of Northern Ontario, Irvine explained that it was simply a matter of investment costs versus user subscription.

"We weren't abandoning the north because of population," said Irvine. "The original projects (Sudbury and North Bay) were based on similar southern markets.

In a 1989 interview with Northern Ontario Business, Cantel president George Fierheller described Sudbury as the company's fourth largest market.

In a published report, Sudbury Mayor Peter Wong said that a cellular network is probably more useful in Northern Ontario than anywhere else because of the geographical make-up of the north.
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Title Annotation:Communications Report; Bell Cellular Inc.; Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario
Publication:Northern Ontario Business
Date:Aug 1, 1990
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