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MCSnet Plans Expansion Beyond Its Borders

SPONSORED CONTENT – MCSnet will continue to find innovative ways to connect communities within its existing network, such as using licensed backhaul links and high-powered, long-range radios, and other new technologies.

St. Paul, Alberta - May 14, 2024

From its humble beginnings as a small, family-owned internet company experimenting with a wireless radio prototype based on a Pringles can to the largest provider of 60 GHz, millimeter wave technology in the world, MCSnet is an Alberta-grown success story. And now it has its sights set on expanding its high speed internet service to the remainder of Alberta.

Family Roots in Rural Alberta

MCSnet started as a family-owned business back in 1995 and it continues to be family-owned with founder Leo VanBrabant handing the reins to his three sons and two sons-in-law five years ago.

“They all work very well together and they’ve made an unbelievable, great team,” Leo VanBrabant speaks of his successors. “I’m so impressed with what they’re doing and where it’s going, so I just see great things for the future.”

Strong, Reliable, Fast Network

From a handful of fixed wireless towers to over 500 towers strategically placed in rural areas to provide high speed internet access to even the most remote regions in Northeastern Alberta, MCSnet is known for its strong, reliable network.

Since 2015, MCSnet has been strengthening its high speed internet by building its own private fiber optic network to boost the speed and reliability of its services. With over 2,000 km of fiber optic cables in the ground connecting 173 towers and wirelessly backlinking twice as many towers with high speed capacity, MCSnet continues to be at the forefront of high speed internet in rural Alberta.

Successful Recipient of Government Grants

Because MCSnet has the reputation of building its high speed internet projects on time and on budget, it has been successful in receiving government grant funding. On March 5, 2024, the official announcement of MCSnet’s application to the Universal Broadband Fund (UBF) was made in Siksika Nation, Alberta.

MCSnet applied to the UBF in 2021 with the goal of improving speeds to its customers in Northeastern Alberta. The Federal government contributed $4,068,100 in UBF funding and the Alberta government matched the federal contribution with $4,068,100 through its Alberta Broadband Fund. The grant funding makes up 50 per cent of the project costs — MCSnet also invested $8,136,200 of its own funds towards the project.

This is the fourth successful grant application MCSnet has received to improve broadband. To date, MCSnet has received over $22 M in grant funding and has invested $22 M of its own funds as part of these grant programs to improve internet speeds for over 35,000 homes and businesses in Northeastern Alberta.

GigAir is a Made-in-Alberta Success Story

One truly innovative way MCSnet has taken the speed of light from its fiber optic network and used it wirelessly is in its 60 GHz millimeter wave technology, also known as GigAir. With close to 4,000 MCSnet customers being serviced by GigAir to date, MCSnet has the largest application of 60 GHz technology in the world (to our knowledge).

GigAir Launched in Months Instead of Years

GigAir is a fast and reliable internet service that can be launched in a community in a matter of months instead of the years it takes for a fiber-to-the-home deployment. It is also much more cost effective for communities and does not require ground disturbance. A full, fiber-to-the-home deployment in a community costs six times more than a GigAir deployment. We have the direct cost comparison because we built our own fiber-to-the-home deployments in Mallaig, Fort Kent, and Cherry Grove, prior to the development of GigAir.

GigAir Now Available in Over 70 Communities

Since many of MCSnet’s 500 fixed wireless towers were already located within rural hamlets, villages, and towns, upgrading these communities to GigAir has been one MCSnet’s priorities over the past couple of years. Existing MCSnet customers were upgraded to the new gigabit speeds without any extra cost to them and new customers have signed up because of the high speed performance and reliability.

MCSnet will continue to find innovative ways to connect communities within its existing network, such as using licensed backhaul links and high-powered, long-range radios, and other new technologies.

Growing Beyond with GigAir

Now that MCSnet has created a reliable process for launching GigAir in a community, it is moving beyond its current boundaries to bring GigAir to the rest of Alberta. All it takes is a starting point with a multi-gigabit connection. And by working with municipalities and other companies, like FortisAlberta, we can deploy GigAir to a community in a timely manner.

To accomplish this great feat, MCSnet is starting from its existing service area and branching out from there. Successful workforce planning, infrastructure and facilities management, and ensuring we continually focus on our excellent customer service, are part of our strategic plan moving forward.

Upgrades for Countryside Customers

MCSnet has not forgotten about its countryside customers. In its initial application to the Universal Broadband Fund, the driving force behind the request was to improve internet speeds for rural and remote communities to meet minimum internet speeds of 50/10 Mbps. MCSnet’s average speeds across its network (not including GigAir), are 60 Mbps down and 15 Mbps up with some areas receiving up to 100 Mbps down and 20 Mbps up.

Just because MCSnet’s average speeds have met the minimum standards does not mean it is stopping there. It is currently testing 6 GHz radio technology, among others, that can provide speeds in the hundreds of Mbps and MCSnet has recently purchased spectrum to achieve faster speeds across its network

MCSnet has come a long way from its humble beginnings as a small wireless provider in rural Alberta. Today, it is the largest provider of millimeter wave technology in the world and is known for its strong, reliable network. MCSnet is committed to providing high-speed internet access to even the most remote regions in Alberta and has successfully received over $22 million in grant funding to improve broadband. With its innovative GigAir technology, MCSnet is now expanding beyond its current boundaries to bring high-speed internet to the rest of Alberta. MCSnet is a truly innovative company that is making a difference in the lives of Albertans.


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