Bell outlines plans to improve cell service in northern Manitoba if MTS deal OK'd

THOMPSON, Man. – Bell has outlined plans to improve cell service in northern Manitoba.

The company says it will provide wireless coverage on Highway 6 from Grand Rapids to Thompson.

It also is promising new, improved wireless services for Easterville, Gods Lake Narrows, Gods River, Grand Rapids and Red Sucker Lake First Nations and enhanced broadband service in Flin Flon.

The improvements will occur if BCE Inc.’s (TSX:BCE) $3.9-billion acquisition of Manitoba Telecom Services (TSX:MBT) is approved by regulators.

Manitoba Growth Minister Cliff Cullen says it’s important for the citizens in northern Manitoba to be getting good cellular access and staying connected.

Thompson Mayor Dennis Fenske says enhanced service will help grow the local economies and connect local businesses to southern Manitoba.

“A flat tire on the Trans-Canada Highway just outside of Winnipeg is not really a big issue, it’s an inconvenience more than anything. A flat tire on Highway 391 just north of this community is a bigger issue especially in wintertime at 30 below, so enhanced cellular service is paramount from a safety perspective,” Fenske said Thursday.

The proposed takeover of MTS from BCE Inc. has received approval from the Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench.

MTS shareholders previously voted in favour of the deal, which would combine the province’s largest telecom company with the group that owns Bell Canada.

The transaction remains subject to approvals from the federal minister for innovation and economic development, the CRTC and the Competition Bureau.

BCE has committed to invest $1 billion over five years for Manitoba’s telecom infrastructure. It has also agreed in principle to sell about one-third of Manitoba Telecom’s monthly contract wireless customers and one-third of the MTS stores in Manitoba to Vancouver-based Telus Corp. (TSX:T).

It’s offering to pay a combination of cash and stock, worth $40 per share, for each share of Manitoba Telecom. It would also assume about $800 million of debt and add about 2,700 employees of MTS to its Bell Canada business.

(CHTM, The Canadian Press)