More than four years after it spent $25 million on spectrum, Bragg Communication’s Eastlink cable division will launch cellular service on Friday, initially in Halifax and then across Nova Scotia and PEI.
The company says it has spent $200 million building its LTE network over a year, using core and access radio equipment from Ericsson Canada.
But during the time Eastlink took to consider its business plan and when to launch the country’s biggest carriers – Bell Mobility, Rogers Communications Inc. and Telus Corp. – have had time to beef up their networks.
Which raises the question of whether Eastlink is too late to the market.
Not necessarily, says Johanne Lemay, co-president of the Montreal-based telecom consultancy Lemay-Yates Associates.
Every carrier has to make its own call, she said – a reference to the decision by Shaw Communications to abandon its plans to build a cellular network in Western Canada after spending $189 million on spectrum.
But, she added, “I don’t share the view that there’s only room for three players.”
Eastlink will have an all-LTE network, she pointed out, and that will be a plus. It will also be able to bundle wireless with cable, VoiP and Internet offerings, which Rogers and Telus can’t in the Maritimes.
With Eastlink’s launch, Canada will have seven facilities-based wireless carriers – Bell, Rogers, Telus, plus startups Wind Mobile, Mobilicity and Public Mobile.
"Consumers have been very vocal about what they want in a wireless service," Matthew MacLellan, Eastlink Wireless president said in a news release.
"We've invested heavily to design a wireless experience that gives our customers what they've told us is most important to them - simple offers, better pricing, no term contracts, and faster, more reliable speeds."
While Bell, Rogers and Telus offer LTE – the fastest wireless data technology – it is generally offered only in larger urban areas. Suburban and rural coverage drops to slower speeds on their networks.
Alluding to the fact that Eastlink has an all-LTE network – although initially smaller -- MacLellan said that “unlike our competitors' legacy networks, customers in all of our markets, big and small, will experience the same lightning fast speed. So a customer in Amherst (N.S) for example, will enjoy the same speeds and capabilities as a customer in Halifax."