Industry watchers say the launch this week of the High Speed Packet Access-plus cellular network shared by Telus Mobility and Bell Mobility will change Canada’s wireless landscape almost overnight as both carriers prepare to launch a bevy of new products on their broadband network.
Bell Canada Enterprises Inc. has launched its service Wednesday while Telus Corp. plans to roll out its HSPA offerings Thursday.
The new network is based on upgraded GSM technology commonly used to operate wireless networks around the world. It puts the two national carriers on par with Rogers Communications Inc., which has been running its HSPA+ network for weeks.
“It will help Bell and Telus compete against Rogers,” says Kevin Restivo, senior research analyst for mobility at Toronto-based IDC Canada. “Rogers was able to pull away from the pack with a handset advantage over the last year. Now that advantage has been eliminated.”
Many cell phone manufacturers choose GSM technology because it is more widespread than the CDMA/EVDO networks used by Bell and Telus. However, CDMA networks are more common in North America.
HSPA+ is an upgrade to GSM technology and paves the path for a 4G network using Long Term Evolution (LTE) technology.
Bell has met it’s goal of launching the network before the Winter Olympics in B.C., says Andy Wright, director of business development at Bell Mobility.
“It’s one of the largest single deployments anywhere in the world,” he says. “93 per cent of the population will be covered with our initial deployment … and over 1 million square kilometres.”
After launch, Bell will be running two country-wide networks and Telus three, including it’s iDEN-based Mike network acquired from Clearnet Communications in 2000.
Both companies plan to support their current networks in addition to the new HSPA+ network.
“Our customers will have the best of both worlds,” Bell Mobility’s Wright says. “For our current customers, we firmly believe in the technology of the EVDO network.”
Bell claims to have more than six million customers on its EVDO network.
Telus will also continue to offer services on its three networks, says A.J. Gratton, spokesperson.
Existing customers of the big carriers are likely to experience any service deterioration because of the change, says Lawrence Surtees, principal analyst of communications research at IDC Canada.
“We’ve seen all cell phone and wireless networks operate dual networks as they migrate,” he says. “They’ve done this all the time.”
Both Bell and Telus are launching a bevy of new products alongside the new network. The carriers will offer Apple’s iPhone and the new BlackBerry Bold 9700 from Research in Motion. Both will also be launching their own exclusive phones.
“It will be our single largest deployment of devices, certainly in one quarter,” Wright says.
With the same network, devices will be one way for Telus and Bell to differentiate their brands.
“We’ll continue to come out with exclusive devices such as the HTC Hero,” Gratton says.
Both companies will also be releasing faster wireless Internet USB modems at launch to take advantage of the faster network. Telus will over one stick with 21 Mbps download speeds, while Bell will offer two sticks – a less-expensive 14 Mbps stick and a 21 Mbps stick.
Those devices should be comparable to Rogers’ Rocket Stick device, Surtees says. “Really, it’s broadband wireless Internet … its phenomenal.”
Telus is also changing its subscription plans. It will no longer charge the inconspicuous System Access Fee and 911 fees to its customers. Calling them “Clear Choice” plans, the idea is that the price you see is the price you pay.
The plans have increased by $5 each, but include voicemail. A customer with an existing plan could save $2.70 by moving to a Clear Choice plan, and will be able to do so even in the middle of a contract.
“If you want to use one of our Clear Choice plans starting next week, you’re welcome to it,” Gratton says. “It’s something customers have been asking for a long time.”
Bell has yet to announce any changes to its subscription plans.
The new HSPA+ network was constructed by Nokia Siemens Networks and Huawei Technologies.
Complete list of new products
Telus has announced it will launch its network Nov. 5 and Bell will do so Nov. 4. Both carriers will be offering heavy-hitter products such as the iPhone and Bold 9700. But there will be some exclusive offers from both networks to watch for at launch.
Here’s a complete list of products the carriers will offer at launch, or very shortly after:
–Research in Motion Inc.’s BlackBerry Bold 9700
–Nokia’ Corp.s E71 smartphone
–HTC Corp.’s Hero, based on Google’s Android operating system.
–LG Corp.’s New Chocolate
–Sierra Wireless Inc.’s 306 Internet key with speeds up to 21 mbps download
—Apple Inc.’s iPhone 3G and 3GS
—Research in Motion Inc.’s BlackBerry Bold 9700
—Samsung Electronics Canada Inc.’s Omnia II, based on Windows Mobile 6.5 operating system.
—Nokia Corp.’s 6530 flip-phone and 2730 bar phone
—Novatel Wireless Inc.’s Turbo Stick with a 14 mbps model and a 21 mbps model
—Novatel’s MiFi 2372 Intelligent Mobile Hotspot that can connect up to five devices at once to the Internet