Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavut February 19, 2016 - 2:00 pm

Nunavut hamlet’s cell phone customers struggle with spotty service

“I was there for a week with no cell service"

SARAH ROGERS
Rankin Inlet, pictured in summer 2014. Bell Mobility customers in the Kivalliq community say the cellular service is unreliable. (PHOTO BY SARAH ROGERS)
Rankin Inlet, pictured in summer 2014. Bell Mobility customers in the Kivalliq community say the cellular service is unreliable. (PHOTO BY SARAH ROGERS)

It took 288 tweets, sent in five-minute intervals over 24 hours for Brian Tattuinee to feel like someone might have taken notice.

The Iqaluit-based airline administrator visited his hometown of Rankin Inlet in late January. Bringing along his cell phone was a no-brainer, given the Kivalliq community has been connected to Bell Mobility’s 4G network since early 2014.

But he had to think again.

“I was there for a week with no cell service,” Tattuinee said. “It wasn’t consistent at all. It would work for three or four hours every day.”

Worse, Tattuinee said his parents and other family and friends grew tired of complaining to Bell Mobility about the issues and getting no results, and eventually grew accustomed to the spotty cellular and data service.

Residents of Rankin Inlet say it’s been months of irregular service, where their cell phone data service works only through the early morning hours, and voice-phone and texting are off and on throughout the day.

“I thought, enough of this,” Tattuinee said. “It’s been months.”

So he took to social media to Feb. 12, first sending a frustrated message to Bell’s Twitter support account, and then automated messages every five minutes, demanding the telecom firm acknowledge there was an issue.

He wasn’t alone.

As Tattuinee got close to 300 tweets, he started to hear from friends and family in Rankin Inlet; his mother received a message from Bell saying she’d be credited for two months of service on her next bill.

Other mobile customers say they received messages from Bell indicating that the company has now turned off data in the community to restore its phone and texting capabilities.

For its part, Bell Canada told Nunatsiaq News in an email that the recent service issues are related to the “tremendous growth” in volume of wireless traffic in Rankin Inlet.

“Our technicians are working to resolve these issues as quickly as possible, and we’re making significant network investments to quickly enhance service in Rankin Inlet,” said Bell spokeswoman Jacqueline Michelis.

“Customers should expect to see improvements in the next few weeks.”

Michelis didn’t expand on what those improvements might be.

But Tattuinee said he’s expecting full service to be restored, or he’ll start up his Twitter shame campaign all over again.

Rankin Inlet has struggled with its 4G service from the get-go; right after the community was connected to the network, customers were complaining about delays and dropped calls on their new smartphones.

Northwestel transferred all its cellular service operations in early 2014 to Bell Mobility, which says it now oversees services in nine communities across the territory.

Northwestel’s president and CEO Paul Flaherty said at the time that, within the next few years, “people in Nunavut can expect to see the same kinds of services that are available elsewhere in the country.”

 

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