To infiNET and beyond: Prince Albert’s Internet service receiving upgrade

Jodi
Jodi Schellenberg
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Those who think their Internet service is too slow will be thrilled with SaskTel’s new infiNET service.

The new service, which has just started rolling out now and is expected to be completed sometime in 2015, will use fibre optics instead of the traditional copper wire to bring Internet to the people.

“From a Saskatchewan perspective, you will be the second community that will be turned into a complete fibre base,” said Ron Styles, president and CEO of SaskTel. “It really provides opportunities for the community.”

Styles said he considers fibre optics to be future-proof, which is what the company loves about it.

The old copper system had a lot of limitations and other problems related to it.

“We have had the copper network in the ground for a long time,” Styles said, noting the system started going in during the 1950s. “It has been cut a fair number of times accidentally and on purpose.”

Since the wire has been cut and the system is old, it is now easier for moisture to get in, he said.

“When it rains, it really does rain for us because rain causes shorts on copper lines and all of a sudden call volumes will take off,” Styles said. “When you are using fibre, you don’t have that problem -- it is not electricity, it is a much different (system).”

Instead of trying to replace all the copper lines, they are upgrading to the fibre optic lines instead.

“Moving to fibre gives everybody a better customer experience and gives them more products,” Styles said. “For us, it opens up more doors in terms of products and revenues going forward.”

One of the major benefits of moving to fibre optics is a huge increase in Internet speeds.

“We are going to put out a modem that allows you to 260 megabytes per second (mbps),” Styles said. “Five mbps is what a lot of what people presently have in their homes.”

Only having five mbps has limitations, he explained. If there are multiple children plus parents using the Internet on different machines there will be congestion.

He said most people won’t feel it necessary to have 260 mbps but they wanted to have the option available.

“It is so fast it isn’t needed today, but we know you are going to need it tomorrow,” Styles said.

“We get a lot of take-up with the 100 mbps though,” he added. “They are finding if they have lots of kids and many devices they want to hook up and add on Wi-Fi, they really need the capacity.”

Since many people don’t understand Internet speed in mbps, Styles explained a 100 mbps download speed would allow someone to download a six-gigabyte movie in three minutes, versus the eight minutes it currently takes on a five-mbps system.

The upload speed will also be faster at five mbps, allowing someone to upload 100 two-megabyte photos in 29 seconds, versus the current 176 seconds.

The latency of the service will also be greatly improved, Styles said.

“Latency is the speed of action, so how fast things can occur and reaction times,” Styles said. “Latency is important for a lot of different purposes.”

Latency will help with business applications and with debit machines, he said, as well as with gamers.

“If you have two gamers and you put one on our system, the infiNET, and the other on cable, the person on infiNET will win every time -- it is that much faster,” he said. “You are not waiting for a response -- it is there instantaneously.”

Having more capacity will also mean the ability to provide services like 3D TV and Ultra HD in the future.

“It is not just a solution for today, it is a solution for long term and it is going to be very important,” Styles said.

Currently in the province, SaskTel has provided infiNET to 25,000 homes and 23 per cent of people are taking advantage of the new system.

“They love that faster Internet so much that they are actually moving to 100 mbps, they are moving up to more television sets (and more),” he said. “They are finding the products meet their requirements.”

They are also seeing a number of people converting over to infiNET from cable systems.

“You get unlimited data with it, where just about every other service you are going to buy (through cable companies) there is a data cap on it,” Styles said. “You can use up so much data and then you are going to be throttled back. We do no throttling back on any of our networks and it is unlimited data.”

The conversion to infiNET will not cost people any money, since SaskTel is upgrading the system in the city, he said. The cost of the service could go up though, depending on what speed customers chose.

Starting now and into 2015, SaskTel will be changing out the old copper wires for new fibre optics.

“Our intention is by 2015 sometime, we would hope that 99 per cent of Prince Albert will be on fibre system,” Styles said. “This is a $20 million build here in Prince Albert. It will be done in 2015, but we are starting to connect the homes right away. It is going to bring a lot of economic activity here with the crews in town … it is a fairly major boost for the community as well.”

The DSL system that SaskTel is removing from Prince Albert may see a home elsewhere in the future too, Styles said.

“As we pull some of the DSL equipment out of major cities, we will redeploy some of the equipment to areas where putting brand new equipment in probably wasn’t economic,” Styles said. “By using old equipment and repurposing it, we might be able to make the economics work.

“This year alone, we are expanding DSL to 28 communities here in Saskatchewan and increasing the speed to more than 200 communities,” he added. “We are doing a lot of things to make sure we are not just dealing with major urban centres.”

Organizations: Prince Albert, SaskTel

Geographic location: Saskatchewan

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  • Nick
    April 23, 2014 - 04:15

    Since many people don’t understand Internet speed in mbps, Styles explained a 100 mbps download speed would allow someone to download a six-gigabyte movie in three minutes, versus the eight minutes it currently takes on a five-mbps system. The upload speed will also be faster at five mbps, allowing someone to upload 100 two-megabyte photos in 29 seconds, versus the current 176 seconds. Did you even bother to do any math on that? it would take 8 minutes for the 100mb connection and over 2hrs for the 5mb connection. As for the upload, 200mb in 30 seconds is 6.6MB/s which is higher than what is even stated the connect is (5mb).

    • Tye
      April 23, 2014 - 20:53

      I also found these numbers way out of whack. Fortunately even in regards internet speeds basic math still applies, 2 < 3 and even 3 is still < 4.