Change in telecom direction

The weekly editorial for the 100 Mile Free Press

Generally, I tend to be fairly critical of the big telecom companies in Canada. This week, however, Telus and Bell made announcements that deserve some props. Telus announced that it has selected Ericsson and Nokia to support building its 5G network. Bell had announced a few hours earlier it would partner with Ericsson.

Telus’ and Bell’s decisions around 5G are of major significance in the South Cariboo. In a large and rural area, such as the South Cariboo, many customers are currently using 4G LTE not only for their cell phones but also for their home or business internet use. With the recent acquisition of ABC Communications by Telus, the number of South Cariboo residents using Telus products has grown further.

The availability of high-speed internet in the South Cariboo plays an important step in the economic development for existing businesses. For example, Roger Stratton, owner of the Horse Lake Garden Centre, has previously said that customers not only expect to be able to pay with cards quickly but that these days they need fast internet for digital catalogues.

It’s also absolutely crucial for attracting new businesses or even for cabin owners to work remotely wherever their company or job may be located. The importance of high-speed internet has been highlighted even more since the start of COVID-19 with many having worked from home. The government and telecoms have spent a lot of money making the current services available and 5G is the next logical step.

However, with very few companies providing 5G hardware, companies, including Telus earlier this year, turned to Huawei. This poses data security concerns, especially in light of increasing tensions over the possible extradition of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou. Telus moving toward using some of the few available competitors to Huawei should be applauded for the future security of internet in the South Cariboo.

While we don’t know why Telus and Bell made the decision, even if it’s purely for business reasons, (i.e. not to jeopardize data sharing agreements with the U.S. or because Canadian authorities are mulling whether to allow Huawei to participate in Canadian networks) it’s a welcome one.

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