Bell MTS pledges 'life-changing' enhanced broadband, wireless service in northern Manitoba

Expanded wireless and broadband service is coming to northern Manitoba. As part of its $3.9-billion friendly takeover of Manitoba Telecom Services (MTS), BCE Inc. is promising to invest in new and improved wireless and broadband services in northern communities.

Investment will include enhanced wireless coverage along Highway 6 to Thompson

The Bell MTS investment in wireless and broadband services will help northern communities. (Paul Chiasson/Canadian Press)

Expanded wireless and broadband service is coming to northern Manitoba.

As part of its $3.9-billion friendly takeover of Manitoba Telecom Services (MTS), BCE Inc. is promising to invest $1 billion over five years to improve broadband communications services across the province.

The investment will include new wireless and broadband internet services for five indigenous communities — Easterville, Gods Lake Narrows, Gods River, Grand Rapids and Red Sucker Lake — and enhanced broadband service in Flin Flon.

"I think this will be life-changing and life-enhancing," Wade Oosterman, group president of BCE Inc. and Bell Canada, told CBC News Thursday from Thompson. 

"It's safety, it is participating in the economy, it's education for our young people, it's a very significant, positive societal and economic impact as a result of this investment."

Bell's investment in northern Manitoba will also involve enhancing wireless coverage along the Highway 6 corridor to Thompson.

"That's quite a stretch of road that tends to be quite dangerous in the wintertime especially, so it will improve safety and connectivity for commuters of that route," he said.

Oosterman said construction will begin after the takeover deal is approved by a number of government agencies, including the federal Competition Bureau and the CRTC.

Planning work already underway

The deal for the newly-named Bell MTS is expected to be completed by late 2016 or early 2017 and Winnipeg will become headquarters for Bell's entire Western Canada team.

"All our planning work is happening now, we've got the province mapped out, we know exactly what we want to do," he said.

"All we're waiting for is official word to proceed and let the transaction close, and as soon as that happens — which is expected sort of end of year — then we'll get started. So [in] 2017, you'll see meaningful progress."

Oosterman added that the service improvements in northern Manitoba are being made possible now because Bell has more resources.

"I think what's clear in the telecom industry is that you really need scale to deliver world-class networks, and of course, we're fortunate in that Bell has some scale and some resources and the financial and people resources necessary to tackle a project of this size," he said.

Bell has already vowed to improve wireless coverage along Highway 75 in south-central Manitoba, from Ste. Agathe south to the Canada-U.S. border crossing at Emerson.

"We have a number of announcements to come, so stay tuned," said Oosterman.

In a news release, Progressive Conservative MLA Kelly Bindle, MLA for the constituency of Thompson, said the Bell MTS investment "will bring immense improvements to communication across much of northern Manitoba."

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