Cell phone service expected next month

Cell phone service should be up and running in Fort Frances by the end of September, with the rest of the Shabaqua/Rainy River corridor in place by next fall.
Originally, the cell phone towers were planned to be up and operational sometime this month.
But Vic Prokopchuk, project co-ordinator for the cell phone consortium made up of Fort Frances, Atikokan, and Thunder Bay Telephone, said some extra time was needed to hash out the details for putting the cell phone antennas on some of Bell Canada’s towers.
Prokopchuk said the design for the antenna superstructure should be ready sometime next week.
“Once they’re approved by us and Bell–because it doesn’t interfere with their equipment–then we have to give that design to a fabricator to built that structure,” he explained.
“The only holdup now is to get the design approved and the fabrication underway,” he added.
Once completed, the structure design should cover the towers at Fort Frances, Blackhawk/Finland, and Atikokan, Prokopchuk noted.
That means Fort Frances east to about Bears Pass will have cellular access, plus reliable service in the Nestor Falls and Barwick area.
“That Blackhawk tower will cover a big range,” Prokopchuk remarked. “You still need a tower to be built at Rainy River [though]. Rainy River will be a tall tower and it will cover a pretty big area to the north and east.”
Cell phone users in the west end of Rainy River District likely will have a 274-number since it is the common calling area west to Rainy River and north to Morson and Nestor Falls.
But long distance charges still will apply elsewhere along the corridor as set now by Bell Canada, Prokopchuk said, since the cell phone system has to use its lines for such calls.
The cell phone project got the green light in March when the Northern Ontario Heritage Funding Corp. gave $1.75 million to the consortium.
Meanwhile, though the Fort Frances area towers are a little late going up, Prokopchuk doesn’t see it affecting the timetable for the entire corridor.
In fact, he said things might even finish early on the entire project once the antennas on the Bell Canada towers are out of the way.
“There’s more sites, and we’ll have to build a couple of towers for our own use, but that’s not such a big thing,” he noted. “The equipment is there.
“Once we get rolling, it won’t take long,” he pledged.