Bell Canada has accelerated the rollout of its Wireless Home Internet (WHI) broadband service in rural Canada as part of its response to the COVID-19 crisis, and is on track to reach 137,000 more homes than originally planned by the end of this month, it announced on its website. This month’s WHI deployments will bring new or enhanced broadband access to 180 communities in Quebec and Ontario, including agricultural regions, small towns and other rural locations. Bell CEO Mirko Bibic stated that a 40% increase in WHI usage over the last month amid the COVID-19 pandemic ‘has clearly underscored the value of the service to customers in smaller communities.’ WHI currently delivers internet speeds of up to 25Mbps but Bell promises upgrades to faster connections in the future. Bell ultimately plans to cover approximately one million homes in Atlantic Canada, Quebec, Ontario and Manitoba with WHI services.
Usage patterns on Bell’s networks directly reflect many of the general impacts of the COVID-19 crisis on Canadians. With millions more people working remotely from home, Bell Internet data volumes have increased as much as 60% during the day and 20% in the evening. Landline and wireless voice traffic has surged by up to 200% at peak times while conference calling is up 250%, alongside increased demand for 1-800 services to support public health and other government information lines. The group also noted a 40% increase in Bell TV viewing volumes and a 75% jump in usage of Bell Media’s Crave video streaming service.