blog/ WIND mobile towers in Ottawa

You may have heard that WIND Mobile is going to be offering service in Ottawa shortly. I got curious as to what their coverage might be and started looking for coverage maps. I didn't find any, but I ended up graphing their wireless backbone instead.

While trying to find a coverage map, bartman passed me a link to this map. At the time it was incomplete and outdated, but linked to the source of the data -- Industry Canada's website, via the Spectrum Direct service.

As it turns out, wireless companies don't have to register the locations of their handset towers anywhere publically available, as they've got a blanket license for a given area on their frequencies. In this case, WIND has an AWS license for all of Canada except Quebec. What they do need is to license specific chunks of spectrum for their point-to-point wireless backbone that links their towers. For some of these licenses the tower locations need to be registered, which is what the map at the previous link is displaying.

WIND also has 39.2 and 39.9GHz licensed for backhaul in certain areas, including Ottawa. So... what you see plotted is some of their backbone towers. From that backbone, they can use 39GHz links to reach their handset towers, which then use AWS to reach your phone.

I decided to go one better than the existing map, and see if I could guess the range of each tower. So I pulled out my trusty sword and hacked up a perl script to automatically pull the Spectrum Direct data, and show me some of the information. It's quite impressive what you get. It turns out I can make guesses at the range from the stats provided, but a more interesting item was that each registered frequency shows the other end of the point-to-point link. I could use this to graph the links between their towers. So, the script was hacked to generate KML polylines, and a quick upload later gave me this map

Along the way, Parse::SpectrumDirect::RadioFrequency was split out of the script so that others might have a reusable way of parsing Industry Canada's data.

And, after all of that, I still don't know if WIND Mobile will have coverage near my home.