Bell MTS upgrading rural cell service in southeast Manitoba

The upgrades include extended mobile network coverage in the RMs of Stuartburn, Woodridge and Zhoda.

Stuartburn, Woodridge and Zhoda to get extended mobile network coverage

Premier Brian Pallister said Bell-MTS's upgrades to cellular service will mean Manitobans living in rural parts of southeast Manitoba won't be left behind. (Sean Kavanagh/CBC)

Bell MTS is promising significant upgrades to cellular service in southeast Manitoba. 

The upgrades include extending LTE Advanced (LTE-A) wireless coverage in the RMs of Stuartburn, Woodridge and Zhoda.

LTE and LTE Advanced is a type of high-speed wireless service for mobile devices that allows customers to access the Internet faster. 

Woodridge will get LTE data coverage this month, while the other two areas will get LTE in 2019.

The upgrades will also improve cellular service along highways 12 and 59.

Monday's announcement, which was made in the rural municipality of La Broquerie, is part of Bell MTS's promise to do $1 billion in upgrades following their merger in 2017. 

Several dignitaries were on hand for the announcement, including Premier Brian Pallister, who thanked Bell MTS for the investment. 

"The fact remains that if you don't have that high-speed Internet service, you have a limiting factor, and your kids do too. And people who want to create jobs do too, and investors look at that stuff and say 'Well, maybe we'll go somewhere else;'" he said. 

"Not anymore, not for these communities, and for more to come."

It was music to Jim Swidersky's ears. As reeve of the rural municipality of Stuartburn, he watched as wildfires ripped across his region seven years ago.

"Seven years ago the southeast was on fire everywhere," Swidersky said at Monday's announcement.

The provincial emergency communications system, FleetNet, failed and Swidersky said firefighters were breaking into evacuated homes to use landlines because cellular service didn't work.

Swidersky and some of his rural colleagues has relentlessly lobbied for upgrades ever since.

"The challenge was to prove how a low population area deserved upgraded cellular service," Swidersky said.

With files from Sean Kavanagh