A transmission tower rises 120 feet above a high point of land in the Arrow River hills, to bring wireless internet to homes, farms and rural enterprise in the area.
It’s the most recent tower built by Park West Fibre Optics Co-op, explained IT technician Jon Fingas, from where he stood on the breezy hilltop.
Earlier that day another technician had climbed the tower to install transmitters to secure more access points.
“We have towers from here all the way to Fox Warren. We serve a bunch of people,” said Fingas.
His role was to program the wireless radios that broadcast the signal from this geographically high ground. Every customer has a radio at their home or office. That device has to be pointed to the right tower to access the strongest signal. It’s line-of-sight service.
Prairie View Councillor Roger Wilson explained that the 120-foot towers the fiber co-op has erected can provide service for 10 miles distant.
As the name, Park West Fibre Optic Co-op implies, this project was an answer to the need for connectivity throughout the school division. The fibre optic backbone hardwires each school in Park West and each community with a school also has fibre, which is important to achieve high download/upload internet speed.
Towers such as the one at Arrow River are served directly from that fibre backbone.
“We’re so glad we did what we did,” says Coun. Wilson.
He lives just 13 miles from the Saskatchewan border. His rural location near Foxwarren is served by a tower. As an example of its efficiency, internet signal is jumped to two towers before it reaches Birdtail Sioux First Nation community. At Birdtail, the download speed is 100 megabytes/sec. (MBps) compared to previous service from NetSet of about 5 MBps/Sec.
Reeve Linda Clark says, “Our Prairie View Municipal Council has been very pleased to bring this service to our citizens and also to some beyond our municipal borders… reports from our customers are very positive.”
The recent installation at Birdtail Sioux is to assist in the online learning for their students as well as individual family needs. Partners in the co-op include Park West School Division, Yellowhead and Hamiota Municipalities.
Neighbouring municipalities such as the northern part of the RM of Wallace-Woodworth and Ellice-Archie are also receiving the signal says Wilson.
While the towers provide strong signal, the fibre optic cable service into towns and schools is ten times stronger at 1 gigabyte (GBps) for both upload and download.
There’s big need for cell phone signal as well, particularly in communities like Miniota. “When we had the public meeting (regarding the internet co-op), the big thing that came out of that was the need for cell coverage.” He says the fibre co-op is looking into the possibility of inviting telecom companies to use the towers to service rural areas with cell phone coverage.