SaskTel Plans Major Expansion

by Jordan Richardson on April 12, 2011

SaskTel has big plans for expansion. They’ve dedicated $670 million over the next seven years in a bid to bring “fibre to the premises.”

SaskTel CEO and president Ron Styles says that the plan – called the FTTP project – will increase bandwidth up to 200 megabits per second (Mbps).

“SaskTel customers will continue to receive some of the best wireless, Max (Entertainment Services), Internet, data and future IP (Internet Protocol)-based services in the world,” said Styles. “Right now, our system provides fibre (optics) to within 900 metres of the homes in the major urban centres across Saskatchewan.”

The new system will supply an awful lot more speed to the average SaskTel customer. “Under the present network, we can do about 35 Mbps download (speed) and two Mbps upload,” Styles said. “The new network allows up to 200 Mbps download – six times larger than present – and 50 to 60 Mbps upload – up to 30 times faster than present.”

$16 million is budgeted for the first year of the expansion, with SaskTel getting the first phase underway shortly. By 2017, the company hopes to have fibre optics deployed to residences in the nine largest cities in the province: Saskatoon, Regina. Moose Jaw, Weyburn, Estevan, Swift Current, Yorkton, North Battleford and Prince Albert.

For 2011, SaskTel has $199 million in spending dedicated to various implementations and upgrades. $52 million of that is dedicated to constructing its 4G wireless network, $27 million is set aside for a rural infrastructure program, $7 million is for the expansion of the Max Entertainment System, $9 million is set for First Nations high speed and wireless expansion, and the rest is set aside for other expenditures like basic network growth.

SaskTel expects to increase its overall debt with the roll-out of the FTTP program, but things should pay off in the long run. Styles also noted that his company is below industry standards with respect to the debt-to-equity ratio, adding his realization that his company is playing “catch-up” with a lot of the other bigger providers in the country.

“We’ll be catching up over the next two or three years, (but when completed in seven years) we’ll be right at the front of the pack,” said Styles.

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