SaskTel announced a major expansion of its cell service in the Batoche area on Friday.

Once completed sometime in July 2014, a new tower will provide cell service coverage to about 500 residents in the St. Isidore-de-Bellevue, One Arrow First Nation and Batoche region.

Métis Nation of Saskatchewan President Robert Doucette says the new tower will provide cell service to both the annual Back to Batoche festival and to the surrounding communities year round.

“The important aspect of this partnership is it not only provides services to the festival but it will provide services to the surrounding communities – Bellevue, One Arrow – all around the communities and homes in a 24 kilometre radius are going to benefit from this cell tower.”

Doucette adds cell service had been provided at the festival on a temporary basis but the new tower will make this coverage permanent.

The announcement was made by Saskatoon MLA Rob Norris during Friday’s Back to Batoche festival activities.

He says the new tower will cost about a half million dollars and is part of SaskTel’s ongoing commitment to provide cell service to rural Saskatchewan.

“Well, we’ve made a multimillion dollar commitment to rural Saskatchewan, so this is part of that commitment to make sure that rural Saskatchewan has better connectivity,” he says.

The new tower should be fully operational in time for next year’s festival.