Rogers Communications Inc. will start commercial service using the next generation Long Term Evolution (LTE) wireless technology in four Canadian cities by the end of the year, extending it to Canada’s Top 25 markets in 2012.
Nadir Mohamed, Rogers CEO, made the announcement to shareholders at the company’s annual general meeting Wednesday.
Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver and Ottawa will be the initial cities. The carrier will start by using the AWS spectrum it won in a 2008 auction to provide LTE service, which, it claims, will transmit wireless data three to four times faster than existing HSPA+ networks.
“LTE is the fuel that will power Canadian innovation in the 21st Century,” Mohamed told shareholders.
“We’re excited and proud to bring LTE to Canada.”
The decision could mean Rogers will beat Telus Corp. to bringing the 4G technology to subscribers. Vancouver-based Telus said earlier this month
that it will start construction of its LTE network later this year, with commercial service to start early in 2012. BCE Inc.'s Bell Mobility, which partners with Telus in an HSPA+ network, has been silent on its LTE launch plans.
Rogers move not only puts pressure on Bell and Telus, it also squeezes new wireless operators who have AWS spectrum, Wind Mobile, Mobilicity and Quebecor Inc.'s Videotron. They have to decide whether to spend millions to upgrade their HSPA+ networks to the faster technology or put the money to expanding their footprint. Quebecor has greater financial resosurces than Wind and Mobilicity and will likely put up the money to keep pace with Bell.
In making his announcement Mohamed also urged Ottawa to stage a “fair and open” auction for 700 MHz spectrum. That spectrum is highly prized by wireless carriers for its ability to better penetrate buildings and carry farther in rural areas than the spectrum operators now use.
In consultations with the industry for establishing the rules for the upcoming auction, several new carriers have urged Ottawa to either forbid or severely limit incumbent carriers like Rogers from buying 700 MHz spectrum, because they have so much unused spectrum already.
But Mohamed vigorously objected.
“Denying established carriers, with the expertise, national footprint, and large customer base, from bidding on this spectrum is a recipe for leaving Canada behind,” Mohamed said.
“Put simply, we need rules that apply equally to everyone.”
Duncan Stewart, director of research for Deloitte Canada’s technology and telecommunications, noted in an interview that like Telus, Rogers is making sure Ottawa see it will use its AWS spectrum before government sets the 700 MHz auction rules.