On July 19th, Valley Fiber’s Fixed Wireless crew raised a new tower providing wireless internet at Valley Fiber’s headquarters in Winkler, Man.
It’s a big job—towers weigh around 20,000lbs—but it’s a crucial piece of infrastructure that gives rural residents access to much needed high speed internet. Once a tower is up, most residents within its range can have services installed within a couple of days.
The backdrop is classic southern Manitoba: a warm morning, occasional clouds rolling over the sun; a soft breeze keeping things cool; a bright yellow canola field stretching into the distance.
The tower is already halfway up, with workers in hard hats hooked in and waiting for the next segment of tower to rise. But why does Winkler need a wireless tower, with Valley Fiber’s dedicated fiber internet readily available?
Before Valley Fiber, there was VISP, a fixed wireless internet provider that offered an excellent alternative to existing ISPs in the region. Originally, the equipment which supplied coverage for the Winkler area was mounted on the water tower, which was dismantled in November 2022. Until now, the site has been home to a temporary tower. But the new, permanent tower is an important step to ensure Valley Fiber can continue its commitment to connecting Manitobans.
Valley Fiber is connecting a large number of rural areas in the province to fiber-optic, but realistically, many rural residents will not have access to it because their homes are too far from mainline fiber infrastructure. Even with a finance loan from the Canada Infrastructure Bank, the cost of bringing fiber to isolated properties is astronomical. The key to reaching them is fixed wireless, which is why Valley Fiber’s Fixed Wireless Division continues to grow and increase the number of sites containing vertical assets that provide coverage to rural residents.
Back at Valley Fiber’s headquarters, a crane extends to lift the next tower segment for the climbers to bolt into place. Bags filled with tools and supplies for the climbers hang from the bottom. Another crew member climbs the partial tower. It takes a minute. Slowly, slowly, the next piece reaches its destination, and the crew begin maneuvering it into place. They shout to the ground crew and gesture to the crane operator. Communication is crucial for raising the tower and ensuring everybody’s safety. Climbers coordinate with the ground crew and the crane operator via radios. It takes the whole team to put the segment in place. Eventually, a climber heads to the tower’s new top and detaches the crane hook. On to the next piece.
The crew are staff who began with VISP, High Speed Crow, Commstream, and Waterside Wireless. Over time, these and other companies have joined Valley Fiber’s Fixed Wireless Division. The benefits are mutual: Valley Fiber can extend its commitment to bring high-quality internet services to more Manitobans, and the division companies can improve their service quality by leveraging fiber-optic infrastructure. Towers connected to Valley Fiber’s network are “fiber-fed,” meaning they have increased capacity and access to the lowest latency network in Canada (according to PCMag). Towers can provide internet access to residents within a ten-mile radius, but fiber-fed towers also provide access to other, non-fiber fed sites, extending coverage even further. Today, Valley Fiber’s wireless services provide coverage via over 200 sites.
The last segment is in place, and the now assembled tower stands proudly as a beacon to Valley Fiber’s commitment. Towers like this offer advantages beyond internet services to homes and businesses: interested towns, cities, and RMs have the opportunity to take advantage of fixed wireless infrastructure to collocate their communications infrastructure. Businesses who rely heavily on constant and consistent internet connections can set up wireless backup links in the event of a disruption to their regular service. But if you’re lucky, one of their greatest offers is the view. From the top of the new tower, all of Winkler is in view. Make no mistake—Valley Fiber will share that view. Subscribers to Valley Fiber TV will be able to see a live feed of Winkler from the new tower once a camera is mounted (we also have cameras mounted in Ste Agathe and Emerson!) while rural residents around Winkler can continue to benefit from the fixed wireless coverage of Valley Fiber’s Fixed Wireless Internet.