With the launch of the country’s first LTE wireless network in Ottawa less than two months ago, makers of business devices and applications are talking to Rogers Communications Inc. about taking advantage of the technology’s speed.
That came out at a press conference Tuesday as Rogers announced LTE service in the city of Toronto will start Wednesday Sept. 28.
On the same day subscribers will for the first time be able to buy LTE-enabled smart phones and two tablet computers, neither of which will be an Apple iPad. Ottawa subscribers can only buy an LTE data stick for laptops.
The smart phones will be the Samsung Galaxy S II, with a 4.5-in. screen, and an unnamed model from HTC.
John Boynton, the carrier’s executive vice-president and chief marketing officer said there will also be two unnamed Android tablets. One of them, he added without giving details, was announced Monday. That would be the Samsung Galaxy 8.9 Tab, a device with an 8.9-in. screen announced in Europe to run on 2.6 Ghz frequencies.
There will also be a Sierra Wireless Aircard mobile hotspot.
(For more details on these devices, see below).
Boynton said Rogers [TSX: RCI.A and RCI.B] is buoyed by the subscriber response in Ottawa to the new technology, although he didn’t give numbers. “It’s a huge lift in our run rate prior to LTE,” he said. “We’re kind of blown out of the park.”
The sale of LTE-enabled data sticks “has gone up dramatically,” he said. The new network has no problem handing off from LTE coverage to the lower speed HSPA network when subscribers can’t get the faster signal, he added.
But Boynton was also silent on the data pricing plans for LTE handsets and tablets, leaving open the likelihood they will pay a premium for the speed they’ll get compared to subscribers of HSPA smart phones and tablets.
Some industry analysts say a byte is a byte and should be priced the same no matter what the platform. Others say carriers will put a price on speed.
There’s a marked leap in price of Rogers’ plans for HSPA data sticks compared to HSPA smart phones and tablets. For example, data stick subscribers pay $70 a month for 5 Gigabytes of data, while handset subscribers pay $130 for the same amount.
Boynton said that’s justified because subscribers user the devices in different ways. Users of data sticks are more likely to download heavy files like video that smart phone subscribers, he said.
The better comparison is the way Rogers prices plans for HSPA and LTE data sticks, he said. While HSPA data stick subscribers pay $35 a month for 500 Megabytes of data, LTE data stick subscribers pay $45 for 1.5 Gigabytes of data. That translates to 7 cents a byte for an HSPA subscriber versus 3 cents a byte for an LTE subscriber, he said.
LTE, short for Long Term Evolution, is the next generation of wireless data technology that promises – under ideal conditions – eventual download speeds of up to 150 Megabits per second. However, Rogers says the data stick it sells in Ottawa now is capable of a maximum 75 Mbps, although it is promising customers they’ll see average download speeds of between 12 and 25 Mpbs.
By comparison, Rogers’ HSPA+ network promises maximum speeds of up to 42 Mbps under ideal conditions. Real-world average speeds are around 10 Mbps.
Rogers wants users to understand that devices and the frequencies they run on can affect network speeds. So, at the press conference it showed that a laptop connected to a data stick running on AWS spectrum (in the 2.1 or 1.9 GHz bands) could achieve a download speed of 60 Mpbs, while one running in the 2.6 GHz band hit 98 Mbps.
Reade Barber, Rogers’ senior director of data product management, also said that organizations may want to take advantage of LTE for firing data to cloud storage providers.