When LWC first tried reaching Skyview resident Prabhpal Mann, the phone connection was static-filled and broken up, with the ringtone sounding more like Morse code.
His voicemail was equally broken, with no discernible cut-off point to leave a message.
It was evidence of the challenges residents in several northeast Calgary communities are experiencing with their cellular coverage.
Mann, who has been living in Skyview Ranch for roughly eight years, said initially when the community was first built, he accepted that perhaps cellular service would be spotty. It was manageable, he said.
“Over the past couple of years, service hasn’t really gotten any better,” he said.
“But the real problem is often you’re driving around these areas and you find a lot of dead spots where you get no service at all.”
He’s had instances where he’s making a call on either Rogers or Telus, waiting 45 minutes for their customer service, and just as it gets to the call, he hits a dead zone and the bars go to zero and the call is dropped.
“It’s just been very inconsistent, and the amount of these dead zones has made it a real issue and frustrating to deal with,” Mann said.
Ward 5 Coun. Raj Dhaliwal said residents have reached out to him about the problem in the past. He’s suggested trying different carriers. He said they experience the same problem. He’s not sure if it’s the area’s topography or a lack of tower power. Dhaliwal said the nearest tower is in Saddle Ridge.
Since it’s not really a municipal jurisdiction, he encouraged the residents to begin voicing their concerns. Last week, they started an online petition. They have paper petitions at stores in several northeast Calgary communities. Dhaliwal said that while he was door-knocking last weekend in Ward 5, he asked if it was a problem for people.
“Every household – ‘yes, it’s a problem,’” Dhaliwal said.
“Doesn’t matter what carrier they use. It’s been there for the last many years.”
He said that when you drive up Métis Trail and then go right on Country Hills, the calls drop.
“You can tell where the person is because there’s no service,” he said.
Raising awareness of northeast Calgary cellular problems
LWC reached out to both Rogers and Telus about the situation. Telus thanked LWC for bringing the issue to their attention.
“We continuously monitor our network connectivity in Calgary and strive to provide reliable wireless service to communities throughout the province, including investing $19 billion now through 2027 in new network infrastructure, operations, and spectrum across Alberta,” they wrote in an email response.
“We strongly value community feedback and take it into consideration when designing our networks.”
According to the Telus coverage map found online, the Skyview Ranch, Redstone, Cornerstone and City Scape communities are all covered by 5G, 3500 Mhz service.
Rogers also responded to request for comment.
“Strong, reliable connectivity plays a critical role in Canadians’ daily lives. We are continuing to invest in expanded wireless coverage for growing communities in Alberta, working with local municipalities and governments,” they wrote in an email response.
“In Calgary, we have several builds underway and are currently exploring sites in communities across the city, including the Northeast.”
Both Mann and Dhaliwal acknowledged that it’s not a municipal issue, however, it has an impact on citizens. Whether that’s for basic person-to-person communication, arranging for rides, avoiding isolation, or using online services, having consistent, reliable cellular services is critical.
“Sometimes there are seniors who want to call home because they want a ride from the bus shelter because they can’t wait for a bus for 30 minutes,” Coun. Dhaliwal said.
“Then there’s kids who are waiting for the parents to pick them up, someone needs medical – 911 that’s an issue. 311 is an issue.”
Mann said that in today’s world, cellular service is almost a basic amenity – especially in a major city the size of Calgary.
“You think about the harsh winters we have in Calgary; there’s many times when people are out in the cold, and then they call for a ride because their car broke down and it’s not feasible to walk 10 to 15 minutes in the winters to have to get out of a dead zone,” he said.
The petition has only been open for a week and there are 311 electronic signatures. Many more signatures have been obtained at doors and the physical paper locations. Mann wants to boost awareness with the hope cellular carriers take action.
“It’s kind of unreal how the community has gotten together to kind of get this to a level that it has,” he said.
“I’m hoping for results because the community is really hoping and they’re trying hard for it.”