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Tbaytel expands fibre to Fort Frances

Tbaytel has announced it will be expanding its fibre-optic technology into Fort Frances in 2017.

Tbaytel has announced it will be expanding its fibre-optic technology into Fort Frances in 2017.

The company has offered mobility service in the town for decades, but the new, updated technology will now allow the telecommunications provider to additionally offer Fort Frances customers Internet, home phone, digital TV and security services, said Dan Topatigh, Tbaytel’s president and CEO.

Planning for the expansion began in early 2016 and Fort Frances was quickly identified as one of the communities that would be a “good fit” for the company, Topatigh said. The board of directors approved a business plan in the fall.

Topatigh declined to put a number on the cost of the project, but said the investment would be enough to provide the urban centre of Fort Frances with fibre by the project’s completion.

“Our goal is to complete the project in one phase, and I can tell you that the costs are certainly consistent with the spend that we have in Thunder Bay on a per-household basis,” Topatigh said.

“Really, the beauty of Fort Frances is that the hydro co-operation and infrastructure that we plan to attach our equipment to is extremely modern and in excellent condition.”

Expanding the service to Fort Frances fulfills the company’s mandate to provide advanced, competitively priced communications solutions in the service area, Topatigh said, and so extending the services to Fort Frances was a natural progression for the company.

Topatigh said fibre-optic technology is now considered standard in the telecommunications industry and this expansion will meet customer demand.

“The speed is unlimited, and currently, many of the residents have a limitation on the broadband service that they have in terms of speed,” he said. “Fibre is unlimited capacity to be able to bring speeds that, in the future, are going to be expected by every household.”

Fibre also speaks to Tbaytel’s other objective, which is to provide communications infrastructure that supports economic growth in its service area, Topatigh said. He believes more opportunities will arise once this technology is in place.

“I think, in addition to helping to better connect the town of Fort Frances, it also brings opportunities for economic growth and the ability to attract new families and businesses and, of course, technologies and applications that the town can explore themselves with fibre being available,” he said.

“We really believe that the incumbents in the area have neglected to provide upgrades and their infrastructure in smaller, more rural settings, and in our opinion, it's time to try and change that.”

Joerg Ruppenstein, president and CEO of Fort Frances Power Corp., supports that view.

“The success of our corporation hinges on the success of our community, and we see the deployment of fibre as a crucial step in facilitating economic growth and enhancing the quality of life for our community,” Ruppenstein said in a release following the Dec. 13 announcement.

“As a business we have witnessed our demand for bandwidth grow exponentially as we continue to deploy more and more computers as well as intelligent field devices. Being able to operate our communication network over a fibre backbone will significantly improve our processing speed, data security, and enable emerging technologies in our line of work such as a Smart Grid.”

Topatigh said planning for the upgrades is currently underway, with Tbaytel working in close co-operation with Fort Frances Hydro. Early in the new year, the company will start the engineering work, and the building of infrastructure will start in the spring, as weather allows.

New fibre-optic cable will be attached to the existing hydro pole infrastructure and, from there, extended to individual homes and businesses. The company will also need to construct a “central office,” which will allow Tbaytel to bring service from Thunder Bay to that point and then distribute it to customers.

Topatigh anticipates the work to be complete, and customers to be receiving service, by the fourth quarter of 2017.