SaskTel Eyes July 3G Launch

by Jordan Richardson on April 16, 2010

July 1 is the date that SaskTel has chosen to begin rolling out their 3G wireless network, says president and CEO Robert Watson. For customers, the news is exciting because it means that the popular phones will finally be able to use the new network and that means iPhones and other hot smart phones are on their way to SaskTel customers.

Of course, iPhone users have been able to use the Rogers wireless network in Saskatchewan up until this point, but this is a pretty big deal for SaskTel because it opens up new horizons and possibilities.

The project carries a price tag of $172 million, but it’ll provide Saskatchewan with the “best geographic coverage of any wireless network in the country.”

“It will probably be the best geographic network in the world, with the size and the population that we’ll cover. (With Saskatchewan having) the geographical size of Texas and we only have a million people, we’ll have a 3G network that will cover 98 per cent of the population,” says Watson.

55 cell towers have been built over three years by SaskTel as a part of the network project, which means that the company has put up over 500 towers in the province. With network sharing agreements signed with Telus and Bell, customers will have full roaming and access to all of the latest and greatest wireless devices.

Interestingly, SaskTel isn’t too concerned about being “late in the game” with respect to 3G network access. According to Watson, the delay helped the company save about $30 million in equipment costs due to not having to purchase it through the consortium. With the full partnership agreements in place, Watson seems confident with SaskTel’s future.

One of the more remarkable issues that SaskTel has to deal with as a regional carrier is that of playing the waiting game. SaskTel simply isn’t in any position to move ahead to 4G just yet; it’ll have to wait until Telus and Bell do so in the province.

While this generally hasn’t been a problem for the carrier, being the little guy does have its disadvantages in a world of fat cat deal-making. Partnerships become indispensable, for example, and changes in technology can leave the smaller companies in the lurch while they wait to develop. SaskTel’s analog wireless network is soon to be a victim, for example, with 3,200 customers that will need to be bumped off the service.

Still, SaskTel is in a pretty good position for a regional carrier. With 3G looming and a respectable set of partnerships to cover the province, Watson’s company is doing relatively well.

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