Bell, Telus Mobility get wirelessly closer

Incumbent heavyweights Bell Mobility and Telus Mobility on Thursday announced that they have entered into the second phase of their wireless roaming agreement reached back in October of last year.

Under the deal, Bell Mobility customers have the ability to roam on Telus Mobility’s wireless digital network in rural areas of British Columbia and Alberta, without the telecom companies having to build any new towers. In exchange, Telus was able to expand its 1X coverage across Ontario and Quebec and introduce its mobile service to Halifax, Montreal, Quebec City and Toronto and the surrounding Greater Toronto Area (GTA).

Bell Mobility became the first wireless provider into deploy 1X services in Canada and Telus rapidly followed suite. The CDMA 1X system allows for generally respected throughput speeds of between 40Kbps to 60Kbps, and is intended to improve upon access to corporate e-mail, intranets, file sharing and Web content.

The “news” merely reinforces Telus’ move east and Bell’s west – at best, it is territorial sharing while working off the other’s already established towers so that neither will have any great expense in moving 1X forward across Canada.

“If anything, it helps augment a Bell Canada or Telus Corp.’s position in trying to sell an entire suite of services. They can offer mobile services on top of traditional voice and data services they currently give,” said Mark Quigley, research director at the Yankee Group in Canada in Ottawa.

In western Canada, some of the local wireless competitors include Group Telecom, 360networks, AT&T Canada and Sprint Canada. As the latter two are also rivals in Ontario, one of the few major wireless competitors for either incumbent in the east would be Halifax-based Aliant Telecom.

The only other major wireless carrier in Canada, Rogers AT&T Wireless, has the distinct advantage of being the sole provider of General Packet Radio Service (GPRS), with the possible exception of Microcell Telecommunications Inc. GPRS is the only competing standard across the country, and Quigley said that Telus and Bell moving deeper into one another’s backyard shouldn’t affect Rogers too severely.

“If you look at Ontario, Quebec, Alberta and British Columbia, Rogers coverage is on par or better than the incumbents coverage. But in eastern Canada, the incumbents would have better coverage than Rogers because of the population base and capital expenditures,” he said.