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Cell phone reception in east-central Red Deer should improve by end of year, say Telus officials

Shaw is hoping to partner with Rogers to enhance service in Western Canada
A new cell phone tower is being built by Telus in east-central Red Deer, next to the Timberlands firehall, It should be operational by the end of the year, says a company spokesperson. (Photo by The Canadian Press)

A new cell phone tower will go up beside the new fire hall at Timberlands to address reception problems in east-central Red Deer, according to a Telus letter to city council.

Councillors were assured this would mean better reception for many Red Deerians before 2023.

“We are happy to share that the new cellular site has progressed through the comprehensive approval process and is proceeding,” states a letter sent jointly to council by Theresa Lynn, the company’s strategic programs director and Marie-Andree Legault, Telus’s general manager of customer solutions.

As of Aug. 30, a lease agreement was signed between the City of Red Deer and Telus to locate the new tower at the fire hall in Timberlands. “Barring any unforeseen construction delays,” this tower will be in service in the fourth quarter of 2022, say the Telus representatives.

Telus is also reviewing reception concerns raised in the Westlake area, “and our wireless teams are working on real estate options for two future mobility sites that would serve other areas of the city,” wrote Lynn and Legault.

Coun Victor Doerksen asked if locations were established yet for these mobility sites, but city administrators hadn’t yet heard.

On Sept. 7, the City of Red Deer wrote to Red Deer’s telecommunications providers, citing concern about Alberta’s third largest city having such poor cell phone reception in several well-settled neighbourhoods. Steady, reliable reception and good connectivity is needed, the city’s chief of staff, Sean McIntosh told council on Monday.

On Oct. 14, Red Deer city council received a response from Shaw, saying it wants to team up with Rogers to make the “generational investments” needed to build a national 5G network and connect rural Alberta.

“We are optimistic that the Competition Bureau and federal government will approve the Rogers and Shaw’s transaction soon, so we can increase our investments in Red Deer and communities throughout western Canada,” wrote Chima Nkemdirim, vice-president of government relations for Shaw.

She stated that Rogers and Shaw have committed to connect under-served rural and Indigenous communities in western Canada, to accelerate the deployment of 5G wireless; to enhance internet service and technology, and to expand program for low-income seniors and other Canadians who need low-cost high-speed internet.

An administrative report to be presented to council on Monday described these written responses from the providers as “positive.”

City representatives met with officials from Shaw and Telus in person during the last Alberta Municipalities Conference on Sept. 22 where inadequacies in local cell phone reception were further discussed.

Council was told the placement of telecommunication towers cannot be determined during neighbourhood planning because a detailed technical review of existing conditions must be undertaken to properly position a tower Engineering Services Manager Konrad Dunbar said 10 possible sites would have to be set aside in new neighbourhoods, only for the providers to eventually determine that an 11th site, with better reception, would be needed.

But he felt it would help to revise currently outdated policies to allow the placement of towers on all city owned land.

Councillors gave initial approval on Monday to this policy amendment.

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