Telus will be watching how many people here use its fledgling cell phone service, and will expand the service if there is enough demand, says spokesperson Shawn Hall.
Since Telus put up antennas in Masset and Sandspit two weeks ago, islanders have reported that cell phones work in the Masset-Old Massett area, up to about eight kilometres east of Masset on Tow Hill Road, and about seven a half kilometres south of Masset on Highway 16. They also work well in Skidegate and Sandspit, and up the east coast to the Halibut Bight area.
“It’s fairly limited to start,” Mr. Hall said. “Down the road we may look at additional service… A lot of it depends on demand.”
The cell phone service is limited both by capacity, which means how many people can use the network at once, and geographically. Mr. Hall said Telus is working right now to increase the capacity between the islands and the mainland.
Not all cell phones can be used on this network. Mr. Hall said any phone supplied by Telus or Bell will work, but phones supplied by other companies like Rogers will not, because they use different technology. Personal digital assistants, like the Blackberry, which allow people to receive mobile e-mail, will also work wherever cell phones work, he said.
Islanders who want a cell phone now may soon be able to buy one right here. Mr. Hall said Telus is arranging a deal with a local store to act as a dealer. Meanwhile, people can order cell phones and service plans or minutes over the internet at telus.com, he said.
Masset resident Mike McLeod said the cell phone service has already saved him time and money.
“It’s a great convenience for me as a business person,” he said, explaining that he can now receive new calls for his computer services while he’s on the road, so he doesn’t have to go all the way home and back into Masset or Old Massett.
He also used his cell phone recently to call police at 3 am when they were needed for an emergency.
Mr. McLeod was already familiar with cell phone technology, having owned one for the past five years to use on trips off-island. He has another cell phone he picked up at the Masset Thrift Store, but said it doesn’t seem to work on the Telus network.
Already he’s noticing a change in the community. He was out at the Masset airport last week and many of the tourists were talking on their phones, just like they do in Vancouver. And he has a couple of pieces of advice for people who want to use the devices. First, don’t talk while you’re driving.
“My first experience with the cell phone ringing in the car – it’s a total distraction,” he said. “It’s not safe driving and talking on a phone, not at all.”
Second, beware the expense. “A lot of teenagers are going to get cell phones and they’re going to be all excited,” he said. “And then they’re going to get their first bill.”
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