Aliant Mobility Wednesday said it is preparing for the final leg of its digital network in the Atlantic provinces, bringing coverage to 90 per cent of customers by 2005.

The carrier plans to invest $26 million in the project —

in addition to an existing investment of $290 million over the past five years — to expand the reach of its CDMA and 1XRTT coverage.

Bringing those networks to the majority of people in Atlantic Canada will help boost the base of potential customers, both consumer and enterprise, for Aliant’s digital services, said Paul Pothier, the firm’s director of wireless business marketing.

Consumers will have access to digital cellular services like picture messaging and mobile Internet browsers. Digital service for businesses include Research in Motion’s BlackBerry service for mobile e-mail and calendaring.

Pothier added that Aliant is working on bringing vertical applications into businesses through its digital network. Third-party applications like automatic vehicle location services could be sold through a partner network.

Aliant has access to national markets through related network sharing agreements with Bell Canada, Telus, Sasktel and other carriers. But the firm’s plans to grow its regional digital coverage could help the company further consolidate its market share in Eastern Canada, said Yankee Group in Canada analyst Mark Quigley.

“”Aliant is dominant in Atlantic Canada and is likely to continue to do so because of the depth of product that they can being to bear, combined with the fact that their network coverage is going to be better than Rogers, who has been their main competitor to date,”” he said.

The most important difference between wireless carriers has traditionally been price, he said, whereas 1XRTT (and whatever follows in terms of third-generation services) has the advantage of new data service offerings — from text messaging to enterprise applications. “”I think that’s where you begin to differentiate,”” he said.

Aliant Mobility’s integration with other aspects of the Aliant organization — those that provide high-speed Internet, long distance and other telephony services — could be useful in putting together bundles for consumers, added Quigley.

The network expansion is scheduled for completion by the end of the first calendar quarter of 2005. Since coverage will amount to 90 per cent, there will still be communities in Atlantic provinces that will not be served. “”We will look at those sites on an independent basis and fill in coverage when we feel their business demand is significant enough,”” said Pothier.

Aliant also announced on Wednesday agreements that would allow customers cellular service in countries including China, Bermuda, Mexico and New Zealand.


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