Brampton eyeing more 5G providers for downtown businesses and Innovation District


Published April 28, 2023 at 1:22 pm

The City is looking to sit down with telecom companies to find the best deal for 5G connectivity to support downtown Brampton businesses and develop the innovation district.

The City launched a pilot program in 2019 to look for partnerships with internet providers to upgrade IT infrastructure in downtown Brampton to 5G speeds. But after reaching out to multiple companies, Bell was the only provider to get on board with the program and has since been working with the City to develop a 5G framework.

Staff said the upgrade is “crucial for the innovation district and revitalization of the downtown core,” but issues with Bell’s costs and infrastructure requirements have led the City to consider other options as it looks to move the project ahead from a pilot to “an incubator program.”

Coun. Rowena Santos said she’s heard from a business that was told by Bell that it would cost some $20,000 to access the 5G network, while others are having difficulty processing transactions at current speeds.

“No one pays cash anymore, and in fact, in the downtown core we’re encouraging people not to accept cash and to instead use interact or debit,” Santos said at a Committee of Council meeting on Wednesday (April 26).

She put forward a motion which will go to Council next week for City staff to reach out to companies like Rogers to try and find the best deal for Brampton businesses to bring 5G downtown.

“In a modern economy, this IT infrastructure is just as important as physical infrastructure,” Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown said during the meeting.

Brown said there needs to be “a Brampton advantage” for businesses and that reliable, fast internet service will help attract more opportunities for the Innovation District.

“This is how you compete in the world, and if we’re marketing the Innovation District we have to have the best service,” Brown said.

A report from City staff also found that there have been issues with how to power Bell’s 5G network in the downtown.

Bell has been advocating for the use of the City’s street lighting grid to power its 5G solution, with payment for hydro consumption directly to the city. But Alectra is advising against a direct connection to the lighting grid citing legal restrictions, saying telecommunication companies need a separate connection and enter into a direct power agreement with the provider.

Santo’s motion could see staff connect with more providers to find ways to reduce the cost of setting up 5G connectivity for businesses and give regular updates to Council.

“I want us to be one of the first, if not the first in Ontario,” Brown said.

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