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Is cell service getting worse around Prelude Lake?

Bell's tower at Prelude Lake
Bell's tower at Prelude Lake. Sarah Pruys/Cabin Radio

People who live or own cabins near Prelude Lake say cellphone and internet service has declined steadily in recent years – to the point where, at times, it’s impossible to even send a text. 

One cabin owner, who requested not to be named, says service has degraded to a dangerous level around the lake, just off the Ingraham Trail north of Yellowknife.

The cabin owner said the lake had excellent service but that has deteriorated over the past five years.

A cell booster helped for a little while, the person said, but service continued to degrade until the booster made no difference.



The cabin in question is around 12km from the nearest cell tower. The cabin owner said people who live closer to the tower have reported similar concerns.

A screengrab of Bell’s coverage. Light blue indicates LTE Advanced coverage, green areas indicated LTE coverage, and yellow indicates 4G service. Photo: Bell
A detail from a Bell coverage map. Light blue indicates LTE Advanced coverage, green areas indicated LTE coverage, and yellow indicates 4G service.

“It appears that the [Prelude] tower is so saturated, with the limited amount of people that are out there, that it is absolutely impossible at peak times to even get a text out, or a phone call out, or anything,” the cabin owner told Cabin Radio. 

He said tower owner Bell and internet service provider Northwestel had blamed each other in recent exchanges.

“It’s almost like they’re wanting everyone to just say screw it and go with Starlink,” he said, referring to the company launching low-Earth orbit satellites expected to rival the likes of Northwestel in the near future.



“If they’d give us some service, nobody would be upset. But everyone is now lining up to go with Starlink because the [current] service has degraded to the point where it’s dangerous.”

A neighbour told Cabin Radio they agreed that service had degraded, describing the near-impossibility of trying to use a cellphone at weekends even though service appears fine during the week.

“My son has said, ‘You know, you could get better service with a handheld radio than you’re getting right now,’” the neighbour said.

Her family cancelled internet service from Northwestel a few years ago, instead accessing the internet via cellphone data.

Service, she said, “has just been gradually getting worse and worse.”

She added: “We were really sorry that we gave up our landline, because at least then we could call out. Somebody could reach us in an emergency.”

The neighbour said the service providers told her nothing could be done, and no upgrades are planned until at least 2025.

When Cabin Radio reached out to Bell, a spokesperson said the company’s team had assessed the site and “completed some maintenance to enhance service in the area.” The same team is planning a site visit to check for additional maintenance issues, Bell said.

Asked what kind of maintenance was completed and when that site visit might take place, Bell did not respond. Whether the completed work has made a significant difference to service in the area is not yet clear.

Northwestel did not respond to multiple requests for comment.