Participating in two simultaneous Zoom calls could soon be a possibility for some rural internet users in New Brunswick.
Xplornet is launching a 5G rural internet service, which will increase the download speeds current customers receive from 50 megabits per second to 100 megabits per second, said Michael Freeman, the company's director of product management.
"I think what this will provide is an awful lot more people with busy households that are trying to do schooling, remote schooling, and perhaps two Zoom calls simultaneously, feeling much better about being able to do that and do that at any time of day," Freeman said.
The company recently installed a 5G tower on Carrs Mountain, which will provide connection to customers in nearby Florenceville-Bristol and surrounding areas. It is using technology manufactured by Ericsson Radio System, Freeman said.
Xplornet announced the move at a news conference in Florenceville-Bristol, located about 140 kilometres west of Fredericton, on Wednesday.
The plan is to erect other 5G towers across the province over the next 14 months to offer the same service to more rural customers, Freeman said.
"It's part of a roll-out where we will extend the service nationally to more than 250 communities, but we're starting in New Brunswick. New Brunswick is our home base and it's where we wanted to make this announcement first."
Rural New Brunswickers have long complained about the lack of high-speed internet in their communities, and in 2020, Premier Blaine Higgs campaigned on bringing rural broadband speeds in over 70,000 households to 100 megabits per second over three years.
Government of New Brunswick spokesperson David Kelly said the province has a goal of getting broadband internet to all rural households, with three per cent of those households to receive it by way of satellite.
Kelly did not say how much progress has been made so far.
"It's clear that this is a growth sector, and we are confident that, by upgrading our broadband, educating young people interested in working in this sector and expanding our digital economy, we will create a bright future for New Brunswick," Kelly said.
Florenceville-Bristol Mayor Karl Curtis said the new service from Xplornet is good, considering some residents are now working from home because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and could serve to attract new residents.
"I think it's going to help draw people into rural New Brunswick," Curtis said.
"And we have also seen here as as they have in other places in the province, people… from other areas of Canada, Ontario, Quebec, moving into New Brunswick, and I think... this can be a draw."
Freeman said existing Xplornet customers will be able to upgrade to the new 5G internet service for the same price they currently pay for the 50 megabit-per-second service.
"Very soon we'll be welcoming existing Xplornet customers to trial this service. They'll hear from us," Freeman said.