The Calgary Stampede has rounded up Bell Canada to become its first-ever category-wide telecommunications provider.

Under the terms of the five-year agreement, Bell will supply wireless, long distance, network infrastructure, high speed Internet and satellite services. Bell is also one of the primary sponsors of the Stampede’s rodeo.

Bell beat out approximately five other bidders in the request-for-proposal process. Before Bell, the Stampede had purchased products and services from a number of providers, including Rogers AT&T Wireless and Telus Corp. Calgary Stampede spokesman Dan Sullivan said Bell won the RFP because of the totality of what it can offer in the telecommunications area. “One of things that isn’t part of the RFP process but what ends up as a real benefit is when you have the brand name ‘Bell,’ you don’t get bigger than that,” he said.

The agreement also includes the joint promotion of what the company is calling “The Bell Experience,” an entertainment attraction that will feature a variety of Bell products. Paul Healy, president of Bell Mobility’s Western region, said the Bell Experience will be situated at a prime location on the Stampede grounds. A showcase will be set up to demonstrate the way Bell’s various product lines converge and interconnect. It may be something along the lines of the wireless cafe the company set up for the Air Canada Championship last year that combined CTV/Globe and Mail content with its wireless devices. “It will allow people to not only enjoy the event — because it’s a fun entertainment venue — but also experience new ways to access to information while you’re on a remote site.”

Bell will probably do some pre-Stampede contests to promote the Bell Experience, Healy added.

The agreement is a coup for Bell, which started setting up its Calgary operations in 1999 with Bell Nexxia, followed by Bell Intrigna, Bell Mobility, Bell ExpressVu, the Bell World distribution arm and the portal. Bell Mobility employs approximately 300 people in British Columbia and Alberta.

Sullivan said the Stampede would be looking to Bell as it explores enhanced e-commerce solutions for its online business. “We do a lot of our business on the Web. We’re not completely there in terms of being e-commerce compatible. We still need human transactions in between,” he said. “As people become more comfortable with issues like credit cards, we’re going to see more of it.”

The Calgary Stampede employs 250 full-time staff on a year-round basis and about 1,500 part time people. That number swells by another 3,000 during the Stampede itself. Sullivan said those workers use everything from short wave radios and cell phones to video uplinks during the 10-day extravaganza, which usually attracts over 1.2 million visitors each July.

This year’s Stampede will run July 5-14.

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