The chief of the Black Lake First Nation says he’s thrilled cell-service is finally coming to his community.

Chief Ricky Robillard says up to now, people in the Far North have been forced to watch the rest of society enjoy the benefits of wireless communication.

All told he estimates there are 4,000 people in the Athabasca basin not including all the workers who fly up regularly to the mines.

Today’s announcement is the culmination of a $6 million partnership between Sasktel, the Athabasca Basin Development Corporation and Chinese phone carrier Huawai Canada.

The chief says it’s a good step forward for everyone in Black Lake, Fond du Lac, Wollaston Lake and Stony Rapids:

“As both Chief and a member of the Black Lake First Nation I see this initiative as a significant investment into our community.  One that will improve not just the business climate in our area but will also improve the safety of our residents and help connect our community members to the rest of Saskatchewan.”

He says it’s no secret people in the north are facing many challenges, both social and economic, and the new cell-service will help everyone in the Far North begin to meet them.

The cost to install and run the service for five years is $5.8 million.

The bulk of the cost will be provided by Sasktel,  but the Athabasca Basin Authority will contribute $250,000, while Huawei Canada will provide $385,000 dollars.
Scott Bradley is the vice-president of corporate and government affairs for Huawei Canada.

He says they are providing the radio-receivers on the towers and other cellular equipment — at no charge.

He adds Huawei hope to build additional partnerships with other operators across the country:

“As we continue to go forward we’d like to think our products provide a good opportunity for going into smaller, more remote communities — in terms of providing cell coverage and also wireless broadband coverage.”

Bradley adds Huawai is proud of the partnership it enjoys with Sasktel.

The new service is estimated to be up and running by 2015.