The president of Icenet Wireless says the company will be able to provide broadband services in accordance with the timelines set in their contract with the provincial government.
Company president Kalai Kalaichela told the Packet recently that because the final contract with the province was not signed until December of 2014, there was a delay in the start of the work.
It’s not a question, he said, of being able to provide the service in the communities included in the contract.
“Before we got the contract we had done field surveys. So any communities that we promised the government we definitely can provide … we are obligated to provide those services.”
According to Kalaichela, Icenet has about 20 percent of the communities already live. With the completion of more communities in January — in the Harcourt and Random Island area — he says they will have 50 percent of their obligation complete under the contract.
Of the communities that have yet to be serviced, he says the next priority will be to get towers in place.
To do that the company will have to get property owners — groups or individuals in some communities — to agree to lease property to the company to set up the towers.
Once the towers are in place, he said, broadband service could be available within eight to 10 weeks in those locations.
He admitted there have been some hiccups in the positioning of towers for a couple of reasons.
In some cases, he said, people were reluctant to entering into a tower lease agreement (TLA).
“And there was a case in one community where the TLA was done, but access to power source was not so easy because the location was about two kilometers away from a power line.”
To provide broadband service to a location, he explained, Icenet has to have agreements in place with other service providers — either Eastlink or Bell Aliant in this province — to tap into their fiber lines.
“Basically, what happens is we tap from the fiber at some point; bring it to our tower and then we beam the signal out from the tower.”
For those who might wonder why they can’t tap directly into a fiber line that goes right past their house — which is the case in Benton and a few other communities — Kalaichela says splicing into a fiber line may not be as simple as it sounds.
“Think of fiber as a four-lane or eight-lane highway with ramps coming off it. You can’t put a ramp everywhere, because it’s costly.
Icenet, he says, will pay the cost of tapping into the fiber line to bring the Internet to their tower and then beam it out via wireless signal to individual houses.
He says Icenet, which is based in Ottawa, has lots of experience providing broadband Internet in remote locations.
According to Kalaichela, they have about 250,000 links established worldwide, in places like the Middle East, Afghanistan and South America.
When the contract for broadband Internet was announced in 2014, the province said it would be investing $4.6 million for this third phase of the Rural Broadband Initiative. Other companies were also contract under this third phase, with Icenet contracted for the majority of communities.
The funding from the province was to cover 75 percent of the costs associated with setting up the service.
Kalaichela says Icenet has a vested interest in meeting the deadlines for provision of service.
“The province provides 75 percent of the capital costs,” he said, “but that doesn’t cover the labour, or our monthly charges for fiber (from Bell Aliant and Eastlink), customer support costs or land acquisition. They just provide the funding for the physical capital — the towers and the radios.
“If you look at our total costs, the provincial funding covers about 22 to 27 percent.”
He said the total cost for Icenet is about $2.7 million, with the company covering 70 per cent of that cost.
“It is in our interest to get this up and running quickly so we can start getting revenue from this,” he said.