Telcom upstarts promise “new era of competition” in the North
But Nunavut cell phone and VOIP service still uncertain
Two telecommunications firms, Ice Wireless and Iristel, want to compete with Northwestel in the northern home telephone and cell phone businesses, Cameron Zubko, vice president of corporate development with Ice Wireless, said May 28.
But it’s not clear if the joint-venture will find a business case for offering their services in Nunavut, despite a news release issued May 28 that says a “new era of competition dawns in Northwest Territories, Yukon and Nunavut.”
“One of the challenges we are facing is the cost of connectivity in Iqaluit,” Zubko said. “We’re in negotiations with Telesat for the cost of connectivity”
The high cost of satellite bandwidth is the number one consideration, Zubko said.
This past December, the CRTC ruled that other companies may compete with Northwestel within its service area for home telephone service.
But whether that happens in Iqaluit or Nunavut will depend on negotiations with Northwestel or Telesat, Zubko said.
If they can’t negotiate costs in a way that allows them to make a business case, Ice Wireless and Iristel won’t expand to Iqaluit, he said.
“If we could, then we would,” he said.
The high cost of satellite bandwidth is a major constraint. So it’s a challenge to set up a network in the North, but Ice Wireless and Iristel still want to be a part of a solution, Zubko added.
Nonetheless, Ice Wireless and Iristel, who have partnered together on the project, are aggressively pursuing an expansion to Iqaluit and are talking with key vendors about it, Zubko said.
“The two companies have a strategic plan for working together in the North,” he said.
The companies visited Iqaluit this past March with their field technician to tour the Telesat facility and map out a possible deployment plan, he said.
And there is a local partner in Iqaluit Chris Callahan of Coman Arctic.
The Ice Wireless network in the Yukon and the N.W.T are already up and running, Zubko said.
If their services were to offered in Iqaluit, VOIP phones would be made available and roaming agreements reached with Rogers and Fido.