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Residents of west Red Deer are also struggling with poor cell phone reception

Westlake resident doesn’t want his neighbourhood overlooked for improvements
A new cell phone tower is being built by Telus in east-central Red Deer to help improve reception in the city. It should be completed by the end of 2022, says a company spokesperson. (Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick).

Red Deerians living at the west end of the city are also struggling with dropped cell phone calls and poor reception, says a Westlake resident.

John Oostra is pleased city council is taking up the battle for citizens and sending telecommunications providers a letter asking them to improve cell phone reception. But he wants Westlake and West Park to be added to the list of impacted neighbourhoods.

It was east-central subdivisions, including Garden Heights, Timberlands and Clearview, that were specifically mentioned at Monday’s city council meeting.

In a phone interview with the Advocate that repeatedly cut out on Thursday, Oostra said he and his wife work from home and have been doubly impacted.

The situation became so untenable that the sales representative asked his employer to provide him with a work phone that is connected to the internet, instead of a cell tower.

But Oostra said his wife, who teaches music from their home, is constantly hearing from parents who can’t seem to get through to her by phone — even when parked right in front of her home.

The Oostras have a couple of “three-foot-square” spots in their house where service seems a little better. But John was standing in one of these spots in his basement when his voice still cut out several times during one phone conversation on Thursday morning.

“It’s frustrating,” said Oostra, who also feels for his Westlake and West Park neighbours, saying “this is very real for others too.”

After complaining to Telus, the service provider gave him a break on his cell phone bill, which Oostra said he appreciated. He was told the problem stems from a cellphone tower that’s oversubscribed and that a new tower would soon be built.

But Oostra noted his cell phone reception has declined over the last couple of years — even though no new homes have been built in the area during that time. He wonders if the real issue is that the new, upgraded 5G service actually takes more power to operate than the 4G service it replaced.

“I can confirm that is not accurate,” said Chelsey Rajzer, Senior Communications Manager for Telus on Thursday afternoon. “Our sites are designed to handle all power needs, so there is no impact to our customers” from the switch to 5G.

Rajzer confirmed Telus is building a new cell tower in the northeast area of Red Deer to provide faster and more reliable services to customers. “This new site is anticipated to be up and running by the end of this year, and will help us continue to meet the growing demand for connectivity throughout the community for years to come,” she added.

This cell tower is part of TELUS’ $9 million investment across the City of Red Deer in 2022. Rajzer added it’s also “part of our $17 billion investment in operations, network infrastructure, and spectrum across the province now through 2026.”

She’s looking into whether the new tower would also ease reception concerns for residents in west Red Deer.

Meanwhile, a spokesperson from the City of Red Deer’s Mayor’s office said city council intends to send a letter to telecommunications providers outlining reception concerns throughout the city, without focusing on particular subdivisions.

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Lana Michelin

About the Author: Lana Michelin

Lana Michelin has been a reporter for the Red Deer Advocate since moving to the city in 1991.
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