Phone competition arrives in north of Canada

Residents of Yellowknife, Whitehorse and Inuvik are unfamiliar with the concept of choice in telecoms. While most Canadians witnessed the demise of the old-fashioned monopoly system about 15 years ago, those in the vast territories reached via the 867 area code have had to make do with a sole provider in the shape of NorthwesTel, a subsidiary of BCE.

Until now, that is. The launch of a new local phone service was this week announced by Iristel (Markham, Canada), promising consumers and businesses significantly lower fees than they currently pay, with no need to change numbers.

“Our network is fired up, connected to the south and ready to go for people in Canada’s north who are tired of high monopoly prices for landline phone service,” said Samer Bishay, the president and chief executive officer of Iristel. “We’re offering more advanced services at lower prices than the incumbent phone company.”

Iristel has been licensed to operate as a competitive local exchange carrier since 2000, but could not operate in the north’s local fixed-line market until authorities introduced regulations last year to finally bring an end to the NorthwesTel (Yellowknife, Canada) monopoly.

Since then, the company has been working to connect its voice over IP (VoIP) network to the rest of Canada and the world, which it describes as “the last piece of the puzzle for local phone choice”.

The introduction of the advanced technology could bring substantial benefits for customers.

According to Iristel, for example, a business could choose to host a multiline PBX phone system in the cloud and avoid paying as much as $20,000 in upfront fees for phone office equipment.

Having begun to take a closer interest in ensuring that all Canadians can enjoy advanced telecoms services at reasonable rates, authorities will expect Iristel to make good on its promises.

The company, which operates across Canada, is currying regulatory favor by saying it will introduce more advanced internet-based services for smaller communities in 2013.

It also offers an assurance that it will not stand against competition.

“We are a pro-competition company,” said Bishay. “If a reseller wishes to compete against the incumbent and us, that’s fine. We will provide them with the necessary resources at affordable wholesale rates. We do this because we believe competition brings innovation and fairer prices for consumers and business.”

Among the other services that Iristel promotes is a mobile-phone offer in partnership with Ice Wireless (Inuvik, Canada), its sister company.

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