Bell Mobility donated $ 380 million for a public safety radio service


Content of the article

The Manitoba government has awarded a $ 380 million contract for a new public safety communications service to Bell Mobility.

Advertising

Content of the article

The infrastructure to support the new two-way radio service will be built over three years, including five new towers. This will be followed by a 15-year service contract, once the devices start operating in 2021.

At that point, the new portable radios and the new network will connect police, firefighters, paramedics and conservationists in an emergency.

“They now have the ability to communicate with each other in order to improve their response times and ensure that there are no gaps in their communications with each other,” said Minister of Sustainable Development Rochelle Squires.

The province issued a request for proposals to replace its 27-year-old FleetNet radio emergency communications system in May 2017, after emergency responders reported multiple communications failures, Squires said.

Advertising

Content of the article

The minister said the outdated system has become increasingly difficult to maintain and the government was notified in 2011 that FleetNet parts were obsolete. The province said officials have finally started sourcing parts from eBay to make it work.

“We heard from several people… that we are very fortunate that nothing detrimental has happened while our responders were using outdated equipment to communicate with each other and respond to emergencies,” said Squires.

The minister said the contract is actually seen as a good deal, as it costs around $ 45 million less than what the former NDP government previously estimated.

A fire chief who once faced a complete FleetNet system failure during a 2012 wildfire said the replacement was long overdue.

Advertising

Content of the article

Alain Nadeau, La Broquerie fire chief and Eastman District fire coordinator, said he was forced to break into a general store in the Marchand area to access a landline as a fire uncontrollably rapidly approaching the city.

Neither cell service nor emergency radios were working at the time.

“It was very irregular. You couldn’t maintain a conversation on a cell phone and the FleetNet radios were not working (at all), ”Nadeau said.

He expects the new system to save precious communications minutes in future emergency responses, which could also lead to faster response times for Manitobans.

“It changes the lives of rescuers. I mean, it will work so much better and it is potentially life saving for citizens, ”said Nadeau.

Advertising

Content of the article

Gary Semlonius, senior vice president of Bell Mobility, said the new system will involve up-to-date equipment with GPS functionality that can easily track first responders in the field.

“It addresses all of the obsolescence issues facing the current network. So fully bearable… and a platinum level of service for first responders, which we cannot do on the current network, ”said Semplonius.

Bell MTS and other operators were asked about access to cellphones in rural areas this week, after some Manitobans accused reduced reception of hampering emergency warnings of a tornado on Friday in the Alonsa region. The tornado killed a 77-year-old man and left a wide path of destruction, despite Environment Canada managing to issue a warning before it hit the ground.

Advertising

Content of the article

Semlonius noted that recent upgrades to Bell MTS LTE in the region have impacted some coverage, although this cell phone service is tied to a separate network from the emergency service communications.

Semlonius said the company is working to resolve issues with mobile phone reception in rural areas around Alonsa. But he stressed that the switch to LTE itself is necessary, because even federal emergency alerts will only work on this system.

“LTE is the way to go and we are working with the province, with municipalities and with our customers to make sure we are providing coverage in the right areas,” said Semplonius.

[email protected]

Twitter: @pursagawpgsun

Advertising

comments

Postmedia is committed to maintaining a lively but civil discussion forum and encourages all readers to share their views on our articles. Comments may take up to an hour of moderation before appearing on the site. We ask that you keep your comments relevant and respectful. We have enabled email notifications. You will now receive an email if you receive a reply to your comment, if there is an update to a comment thread that you follow, or if a user that you follow comments. Check out our community guidelines for more information and details on how to adjust your email settings.