Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Jets fans should see improved cell service

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The Winnipeg Jets are sure to be flying high as they head into their second home game tonight.

But as for fans' talk, texts and emails? It remains to be seen if they'll get too far off the ground.

The last time the Jets took to the ice at the MTS Centre, many of the 15,000 fans found their cellphone communications could barely make it out of the barn. Texts didn't send. Twitter didn't load. And all those iPhone pics of shiny young Mark Scheifele fans tried to email to friends? Sometimes friends got 'em -- three hours later.

This isn't the first time cellphone networks have groaned under the weight of major events. But with 41 packed regular-season games at the MTS Centre between now and April, the folks who work the phones are racing to beef up their networks. "We're doing everything we can," said MTS spokeswoman Selena Hinds on Tuesday.

MTS technicians have been working for weeks to increase capacity inside the arena, Hinds said, but only some of the improvements were in place by the time the Jets faced the Columbus Blue Jackets on Sept. 20 in the team's pre-season debut.

The improvements that were ready boosted cell-network capacity at the arena by two or three times, Hinds said, but it still wasn't quite enough to handle the volume of data streaming out of the seats.

But by Oct. 9, when the Jets host the Montreal Canadiens to open their regular season schedule, all of the upgrades should be complete and Jets fans should find smoother service.

"They're working towards having no issues for the home opener," Hinds said. "It's a new network, it's new for Winnipeg to have that much excitement about MTS Centre, and we're going to continue to invest in it."

Although Telus's network technicians did not report any issues for the first Jets homer, a spokeswoman for the company said Telus is also preparing to bolster capacity at what will be a busy MTS Centre. There's not a date yet for when that work is expected to be completed, but "it's something that's in our plans," Anne-Julie Gratton said.

"We launched our (new) network there in February, and we're still working on deploying that network and adding more and more territory," she said. "Part of it is adding capacity with what we know is happening now at the arena."

melissa.martin@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 28, 2011 A7

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