Wireless coverage on Highway 16 east of Prince George is expected to improve in the coming years as the Connecting British Columbia Agreement is rolled out.
The deal signed in 2011 between the provincial government and Telus calls for 1,700 km worth of highway corridor across the province to become wireless accessible.
"That stretch of Highway 16 east of Prince George is squarely in our sites, we are working in that area," Telus spokesman Shawn Hall said.
Hall was unable to say precisely when cellular phone and wireless Internet service will be available to the east of town because the process of identifying sites for towers, getting environmental assessments approved, building power lines and physically constructing the tower can take anywhere from six months to two years to complete.
"It's hard to say exactly, because of the vagaries of construction projects," Hall said. "But yes we do have several sites underway [around the province] now that will likely be coming live in 2013."
Last year about 455 km worth of northern highway went online, including projects near northern communities like Dawson Creek, Chetwynd, Hazelton, Prince Rupert and Fort Nelson.
"This is a massive, multi-year undertaking," Hall said. "We have to identify the highway corridors, find appropriate properties, do all the engineering work around identifying sites that will give us the maximum amount of coverage in some very, very challenging areas."
The company can't commit to covering every single kilometre of highway because of geographical and technical challenges, but the goal is to provide as much coverage as possible. In urban areas a cell tower may only cover a few hundred metres, but along a highway the range can vary from 10 km to 30 km depending on the topography.
The impetus for the agreement is to make it possible for people to use a cellphone in a case of an emergency, something the BC Ambulance Service believes will allow them to get to the scene of the incident faster. The wireless Internet could also provide an economic benefit to rural areas.
"It introduces the ability to phone 9-1-1 on the highway but it also the ability for many people to get faster Internet in their homes and businesses and while they're travelling," Hall said.