Bell Mobility has beaten Rogers Communications Inc. in the race to launch high speed LTE wireless data service in the country’s largest city.
Bell, a division of BCE Inc., quietly released a statement late Tuesday that LTE service will start today in Toronto, Mississauga, Hamilton, Kitchener-Waterloo and Guelph. LTE flex-rate data plans start at $45 a month for 1.5 gigabytes of data, and go up from there.
That’s the same pricing starting point as Rogers, which started commercial LTE service in July in Ottawa and promised to add Toronto on Sept. 28.
Bell [TSX, NYSE: BCE] said earlier this year it would start LTE service before the end of the year, but kept the launch dates and cities secret.
LTE, short for Long Term Evolution, is the next generation IP-based wireless data technology that promises download speeds of over 100 Mbps under ideal conditions. Bell and Rogers say LTE customers should get download speeds averaging between 12 and 25 Mbps. The current generation HSPA+ wireless data technology used by Bell, Rogers and Telus maxes out at 42 Mpbs — again under ideal conditions — depending on which version of the standard they are using. Real average speeds will be below 10 Mpbs.
The current version of LTE that carriers are rolling out around the world isn’t regarded by experts as a true 4G (fourth generation) wireless standard that has a converged IP voice and data network. Voice over LTE won’t come until the LTE Advanced standard is finalized, which is likely a year away. Until then LTE-enabled smartphones will only take advantage of LTE on the data side.
Bell said its LTE network will be extended to other cities this year and in 2012, but says broadening the coverage to rural areas will depend on the rules Industry Canada sets for the upcoming 700 Mhz auction. That spectrum is prized by carriers for its ability to carry signals over longer distances, which means fewer cellular antennas have to be installed for a given area. That results in considerable capital savings.
The industry hopes the government’s strategy will become clearer when parliament resumes in the fall.