Aliant expands EVDO footprint in Atlantic Canada

Aliant Inc. Tuesday said it will expand its EVDO coverage to allow the third-generation (3G) network service to reach metropolitan centres in Atlantic Canada.

Aliant originally launched its evolution data-optimized service (EVDO) in Halifax in February. The service is now available in Saint John, Moncton and Fredericton in New Brunswick; Charlottetown, P.E.I.; and St. John’s, Nfld.

The telecommunications company has set aside $20 million for network growth this year, said Paul Pothier, director of wireless business marketing.

“We will continue to expand our high-speed wireless footprint and plan to have about 60 per cent of the (Atlantic Canada) population covered by the end of 2007,” he said. After that, EVDO service will expand into other parts of the region “as demand requires.”

It makes sense for EVDO to push into more remote communities, said Roberta Fox, prinicipal with Fox Group Consulting, based in Markham, Ont., and may be a viable alternative to more conventional Internet standards like DSL.

It’s cheaper to deploy and “I think EVDO is the only way you’re going to be able to get almost-broadband quality in some of those rural areas,” said Fox. “I think Aliant is putting a lot more investment into EVDO than into traditional land-line technology.”

According to Aliant, EVDO will achieve data speeds of up to 2.4 Mbps, allowing EVDO-compliant wireless devices to handle a greater capacity of data applications and e-mail. Other 3G applications, like interactive gaming, video messaging and streaming television will also be available. Aliant is planning to offer a Live TV service to subscribers later this year, allowing live television programming to be streamed directly to a mobile device.

A number of telecommunications providers currently make TV clip services available to wireless subscribers, but mobile live television may already have some pent-up demand, said Jon Arnold, principal with Toronto-based analyst firm J Arnold & Associates.

“It’s pretty clear that all the carriers need to ramp up their capability to provide this kind of wireless video. The live streaming stuff is where a lot of the future is going,” said Arnold.

But there is some concern that if enough people are using mobile devices to watch television, the bandwidth could put a strain on the cellular networks, he added.

“It’s a no-brainer to do voice and e-mail, but once you get into this stuff – film, music and TV – then you’re talking about a whole other thing. The issue the network operators have is, ‘Do I want to clog up my networks?’”

The situation becomes more complicated considering the network sharing agreements that exist between the various telecommunications providers, said Arnold.

Pothier wouldn’t say how many Haligonians have adopted its EVDO service since the February launch, “but we’ve been very happy with the results so far.”

Aliant said that EVDO service is currently available via three types of devices: A Kyocera Passport PC card, Samsung’s a920 cell phone, and Research in Motion’s BlackBerry 7130e.

Comment: info@itbusiness.ca

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