GIRAT, Bell align to improve mobile coverage in Abitibi-Témiscamingue

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Gestion de l’inforoute régionale de l’Abitibi-Témiscamingue (GIRAT) and Bell has announced a new cell site located at Dorval Lodge in Réserve faunique La Vérendrye that will bring improved cellular coverage along Route 117 between Mont-Laurier and Val d’Or.

The remote site is also part of a research project with Université de Sherbrooke to maximize the use of solar energy to minimize generator use in remote locations without access to electricity.

The newly operational cell site is part of the Mobile A-T project, a partnership between GIRAT and Bell to add 32 such sites in the Abitibi-Témiscamingue region, as well as in the section of Réserve faunique La Vérendrye located within the MRC de la Vallée-de-la-Gatineau. Nineteen of the sites are now in service and the full project is expected to be complete by the end of spring 2021.

“GIRAT takes great pride in seeing the eco-responsible Dorval Lodge site come into service,” said Alexandre Binette, President of GIRAT. “The tower is one of 4 sites that will be located in Réseve faunique La Vérendrye, all part of our project to greatly improve cellular coverage in Abitibi-Témiscamingue. These broadband mobile connections are important for the ongoing development of the region, reducing digital isolation from the rest of Québec and increasing safety for travellers along Route 117. We hope that GIRAT’s contribution, along with Bell and the Université de Sherbrooke, can be applied to other areas where isolation makes mobile service difficult to enable.”

“Bell is excited to work with GIRAT and Université de Sherbrooke to help ensure Québec remains at the forefront of wireless innovation, and pleased to serve the people of Abitibi-Témiscamingue,” said Nicholas Payant, Bell’s Vice President, Connectivity and Reliability. “Leveraging our network leadership to further advance how we all connect with each other and the world, Bell looks forward to further developing this unique solar-powered technology for use on cell sites in other remote areas.”

The development of the site’s solar-powered technology is part of a partnership between Bell and Université de Sherbrooke through the Interdisciplinary Institute for Technological Innovation (3IT) to drive broadband technology research in a broad range of sectors, including smart energy management, Internet of Things (IoT) and innovative manufacturing.

“Université de Sherbrooke is proud to be part of this important project aimed at demonstrating the promise of using sustainable energy for telecommunication towers to provide solutions that are more efficient, autonomous and beneficial to the environment,” said Professor Vincent Aimez, Vice President of Partnership and Knowledge Transfer at the Université de Sherbrooke. “Pairing 3IT’s solar energy expertise with that of the Nergica research institute in Gaspé, we developed a solar panel and battery storage solution to power this remote site, allowing us to integrate computer modelling, testing at 3IT’s solar park, and implementation in an operational setting, which is truly distinctive and highly instructive for our students.”

With the creation of a broadband network via the deployment of 1,400 km of optical fibre in the Abitibi-Témiscamingue region in 2006, GIRAT has been providing service for over 15 years at speeds ranging from 100 Mbps to 1 Gbps to educational institutions (CSS, CEGEP, UQAT) and municipal and regional administrations within its boundaries, as well as non-profit organizations.

Recognized for its culture of innovation, its synergy with organizations and its research activities that address the needs of society, the UdeS is the leading partner of higher level and regional governments to foster social, cultural and economic development. What also sets it apart is the strong growth of its research activities over the past few years, its successes in technology transfer and its initiatives in entrepreneurship and innovation in collaboration with the industrial and social sectors, including the establishment of the largest solar park dedicated to partnership research in Canada.