Canadians will soon get their hands on the 4G technology that American carriers have been offering their customers for months.
Telus Corp. said Wednesday that it will start construction later this year of a new wireless network capable of running the LTE (Long Term Evolution) standard on enabled equipped handsets, laptops and mobile equipment, with service to start in major cities next year.
LTE offers download data speeds under ideal conditions of up to 150 Megabits per second. By comparison Telus’ current wireless network, which runs the HSPA+ standard, can get up to 42 Mbps.
But most users likely see average speeds of one-third to one quarter of those maximum.
The announcement will set off a “domino effect,” with competitors following fast, predicted Ron Gruia, telecommunications analyst at Frost & Sullivan.
That didn't happen immediately.
BCE Inc., which owns Bell Mobility and shares a wireless network with Telus, issued a statement saying that while it has been testing LTE on its network in Montreal and Hamilton, Ont., it has made no announcement about commercial availability.
In a release Rogers Communications Inc., which has been testing LTE on its network in the Ottawa area, noted it was first to announce a technical trial. But it too is silent on commercial deployment.
With U.S. carriers such as MetroPCS and Verizon Wireless deploying LTE across their networks starting late last year, it was only a matter of time before Canadian carriers would join. However, some industry analysts thought carriers here would hold off a while because HSPA can be upgraded to get download speeds of 84 Mpbs.
Executives of Canadian carriers have always said they are waiting for the ecosystem of handsets and USB modems for laptops to be big enough to justify the cost of upgrading their networks.
One reason Telus might be moving to LTE now is that Shaw Communications Inc., its cable competitor, is scheduled to start its wireless service in Western Canada early in next year. Telus may be hoping to get a technological lead over Shaw, which will be a formidable challenger.
Jean Brazeau, Shaw’s senior vice-president of regulatory affairs, shrugged off the announcement as a “natural evolution” of Telus’ network.
However, he wouldn’t say whether Shaw will start with HSPA or LTE data service when it debuts.
“As for us, we’re still rolling out our service and the technology we decide on will be decided at a given time. I don’t think we’re overly concerned Telus will be able to offer LTE services.”
Some analysts had thought that Canadian carriers might wait until Ottawa holds the 700 Mhz auction before going into LTE, because network equipment makers are selling gear made for those frequencies. The ability of signals in that band to penetrate buildings makes 700 Mhz ideal for data services. But rules for that auction haven’t been set yet and before the election the Harper government suggested it wouldn’t be held until 2012. In addition, carriers are seeing increased demand from smartphone subscribers for data services. Telus doesn’t want to wait.