Subscribers with LTE devices will get better in-building coverage with the spectrum

Weeks after Rogers Communications took possession of the shining-new 700 MHz spectrum it spent almost $3.3 billion in a spectrum auction earlier this year it has started to deploy it.

The carrier said Friday that in certain parts of Vancouver, Calgary and Toronto many customers with enabled smart phones can take advantage of the spectrum for better mobile video and reception inside buildings.

“The majority of LTE devices that Rogers customers use can take advantage of the 700 that was lit up today,” Michelle Kelly, the company’s senior manager of communications said in an interview. “It allows then to get more consistent LTE access and in more places, like underground.”

(Correction: An earlier headline said Rogers was the first to deploy 700 MHz spectrum. We were wrong. According to Mobile, Bell Mobility quietly started service in Hamilton, Ont. at the beginning of the month.)

LTE is the true so-called 4G data technology that Rogers says allows download speeds of up to 150 Mbps under ideal conditions in some urban parts of the country, although average speeds users see in daily use will be around 40 Mbps.

Until now, Rogers and other carriers offering LTE service (including Bell Mobility, Telus Corp., Videotron, Eastlink, SaskTel and Manitoba Telecom Services) have been largely deploying it over AWS spectrum they won in the 2008 auction, which is in the 1700 and 2100 MHz bands. The advantage of lower bands like 700 MHz is that reception is better inside buildings. For that reason bidders in the 700 MHz auction were willing to spend a total of $5.27 billion for the frequencies despite fewer than expected bidders.

Kelly wouldn’t detail which areas in the three cities have 700 MHz coverage. Presumably it’s the downtown cores.

Iain Grant, managing director of the SeaBoard Group telecom consultancy wasn’t surprised at the fast initial deployment. “They have the towers, structures, back haul all in place.  They knew they’d get the spectrum … And now they have the bragging rights!” he said in an email.

“While some may have wanted to see new entrants emerge from the [700 MHz] spectrum auction, the rapid deployment of infrastructure is a demonstration of the depth of engineering and financial resources of carriers faced with the need and ability to serve ever increasing customer demand,” said telecom consultant Mark Goldberg.

Rogers (TSX: RCI.B) bought spectrum across the country. Kelly said the carrier will continue to roll out 700 MHz coverage in rural as well as urban areas.


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