Videotron announces cellular launch plans

Videotron Ltd. announced Wednesday it hopes to launch cellular service next summer and has made tower sharing arrangements on 60 per cent of the sites necessary to establish its wireless network.
The Montreal-based subsidiary of Quebecor Media Inc. already has nearly 1.8 million cable TV and nearly a million cable phone customers in Quebec.

Quebecor paid Industry Canada $555 million in 2008 for licenses in the Advanced Wireless Spectrum Auction.

Other new wireless entrants include Globalive Wireless Management Corp., which recently launched Wind Mobile in Toronto and Calgary. DAVE Wireless Inc., which announced earlier this week it raised an additional $75 million, plans to launch early in 2010. Public Mobile Inc., which plans to offer cheap calling plans, is currently having its ownership structure reviewed by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC).

Videotron published some details on its buildout in a press release Wednesday but did not immediately respond to an interview request.

“As of December 21, 2009, all services and switching platforms have been installed and are operational, and interconnections have been established with Videotron’s existing fibre network,” the press release stated. “Multi-phase reliability testing of these platforms is currently underway. Videotron has successfully entered into several site access agreements or had tower-sharing requests accepted in respect of nearly 60 per cent of all antenna sites required for the AWS launch. Furthermore, the equipment for most of the contracted sites has been installed or is in the process of being installed.”

Industry Canada released guidelines on tower sharing last April, but the Videotron release suggested the government rules do not go far enough.

“Despite the continuing lack of clear support from governmental authorities that would expedite increased competition in this field, Videotron is maintaining the pace of its network build-out,” Videotron President Robert Depatie stated in the press release.
“I think they want to take a jab at the government for not making it easier for them to do this,” said Brownlee Thomas, Montreal-based principal analyst at Forrester Research Inc. “They’re anticipating launching in the summer. That says to me the end of the summer if they don’t delay it a bit.”

Videotron did not say what handsets it will offer or give any details of its pricing plans. Wind Mobile currently offers four handsets and an HSPA antenna that plugs into UBS ports, plus voice plans starting at $15 a month. Apple Inc.’s iPhone products do not work on Wind Mobile’s network.

Thomas speculated Videotron will probably offer the iPhone, though they can be competitive if they don’t.

“I don’t see why they wouldn’t,” offer the iPhone, she said, but that depends how much it costs.

“There are a lot more phones out there to choose from. HSPA opens the world up to you.
If they offer an Android phone, do we really care about the iPhone?”

Android is Google Inc.’s operating system for wireless devices.

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