Eastlink set to launch wireless service in Halifax

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.”

It will launch with handsets from Samsung, including the top of line Galaxy S III, LG, Sony and BlackBerry. What it will not have are Apple iPhones, which Bell, Rogers and Telus will be able to offer. That hurts any carrier that doesn’t have it, said Lemay, but not as much as it did in the past when there were fewer good handsets.

Eastlink Wireless plans start at $20 a month in a bundle with no activation fees, unlimited text and call display.

Unlimited talk and text plans start at $30 a month.

There is also a data option, with 1 GB of data for an extra $16 a month.

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Howard Solomon
Howard Solomon
Currently a freelance writer, I'm the former editor of ITWorldCanada.com and Computing Canada. An IT journalist since 1997, I've written for several of ITWC's sister publications including ITBusiness.ca and Computer Dealer News. Before that I was a staff reporter at the Calgary Herald and the Brampton (Ont.) Daily Times. I can be reached at hsolomon [@] soloreporter.com

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