Dead signal zones may soon be a thing of the past as Freedom Mobile, a wireless telecommunications company, plans to construct five more radio towers in the Sooke Region.
The company approached Sooke council last November with a similar proposal to install two radio towers, but now it seeks the installation of three more along Sooke and Otter Point roads.
“We’ve heard that feedback and we’re investing in Sooke in particular to address the concerns of the community in poor coverage areas,” Jeff Bray, a company spokesman, said at Monday’s council meeting.
Despite presenting to Sooke council in a public meeting, Bray declined to release a document describing exact addresses of the radio towers.
Three locations are already known, however. One will be on the roof of the the Sooke Royal Canadian Legion, another to be installed in trees on a property at 6228 Sooke Rd., and one on an existing radio tower at an undisclosed location in East Sooke.
“There’s a lot of anticipation with competition and choice. We want to come up with a plan that meets the community expectations,” Bray said.
In November, Freedom Mobile, which is owned by Shaw and is the fourth largest mobile operator in Canada, ran into some concern from Sooke residents over where the radio towers would go, and now plans to “work together” to find the best possible locations, Bray added.
Bad cellphone coverage in the Sooke Region is nothing new, largely due to its rugged topography and easy cutoff points between deep valleys and medium-sized mountains.
Despite initial aesthetic concerns, Sooke council approved a future report and application from Freedom Mobile to move ahead with the plans, recognizing that lack of coverage along the Highway 14 corridor and other parts of Sooke is a bigger issue to bear.
“Competition is always good for Sooke residents, they’re on social media, lack of coverage is a constant concern,” said Coun. Kerrie Reay, noting a lot of people have moved away from their land lines and solely depend on their cellphones.
“We’ve heard lots of people saying they’d really like to see coverage along Highway 14 corridor improve. For me, anything that looks to improve cell service for the community is a good thing.”
Finding a balance between providing coverage and the concerns associated with radio towers is key, noted Mayor Maja Tait, adding that while she supports the idea for better cell service, how those towers are implemented is something the Sooke community should be mindful of.
“We always are concerned, but when it’s on someone’s individual building or property, it’s up to those land owners to decide,” Tait said.