Edmonton to Become Canada's First "Gigabit Society"

Fibre optic $1B investment will make Edmonton Canada’s ‘first gigabit society,’ Telus says

Telus says its $1-billion fibre-optic Internet build out in Edmonton will give the city a technological and economic upper hand that will boost innovation, education and streamline health care.

The company announced Friday it is expanding its network of high-speed fibre optic cables in Edmonton, connecting 90 per cent of residents to super fast web browsing. The technology uses glass or plastic threads to transmit data as pulses of light rather than signals through metal cable.

Darren Entwistle, Telus executive chairman, called it the company’s single largest fibre optic investment in its history and the largest in the country. The project is expected to create 1,500 jobs.

“We are making a generational investment and creating the first, significant urban gigabit society in Canada,” Entwistle said.

“Our gigabit-enabled network will deliver speeds of 150 megabits per second right to the doors of more than 300,000 homes and businesses as well as medical, educational and community facilities to dramatically improve the way we live, work and socialize in a digital world,” Entwistle said. Telus currently markets Internet download speeds of 15 to 100 megabits per second.

U.S. cities, such as Chattanooga, Tenn. — it boasts Internet speeds as fast as one gigabit per second, about 50 times faster than the U.S. average — have risen 110 basis points in gross domestic product, Entwistle said.

Touting fibre optic networks as having virtually unlimited capacity, he said they are needed to handle soaring growth in communications traffic and Internet use.

“Our fibre network will future-proof Edmonton’s growing digital demands for decades to come.”

Entwistle promised faster and more reliable Internet connections for users to watch digital entertainment and share videos and photos.

He also touted benefits for education and business, such as increased telecommuting capacity and virtual, interactive field trips.

“In the case of the resource sector, we will have the capability to provide remote camps with (Internet Protocol) TV and high-speed Internet. These services will improve the workers’ quality of life and, importantly, help them stay connected with their loved ones.”

In health care, the technology can support the digitizing of patient information and help electronically deliver primary care such as e-prescribing medication, Entwistle said.

Premier Rachel Notley called the announcement a vote of confidence in the region.

“The capital investment that Telus is making in fibre optic technology will create a digital autobahn for business here in Edmonton,” Notley said.

Mayor Don Iveson said the upgrades will accelerate growth and enable better delivery of educational, health and entrepreneurial services for people across northern Alberta.

Telus expects a return for its investment of market share.

“I think we’re going to attract a lot of customers with this particular technology and all the eco-systems enabled along the way,” Entwistle said.

A company news release said there is no requirement to be a current Telus customer to be connected to the network, nor are there any conditions to purchase services once construction is complete.

Telus workers will canvas neighbourhoods to discuss connecting homes and businesses directly to the fibre optic network and installing infrastructure.

Telus says it is investing $4.2 billion in new infrastructure and facilities across Alberta through 2018, including $1 billion this year.

In Edmonton, the $1 billion will be spent over five or six years, with half of it going to civil engineering and half to the fibre-optic technology.

Story Tags:  Connectivity