Rogers Communications Inc. is so eager to get the jump on competitors it will start selling access to the next-generation high-speed wireless data technology called Long Term Evolution (LTE) this summer in Ottawa.
The company announced this morning that customers in the city can start reserving an LTE modem to plug into laptops now for when service starts at an unannounced date. Rogers had said LTE service would begin at the end of this year
in Ottawa, Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver, and extend LTE to 25 other cities next year.
The company has been testing LTE in the Ottawa area and Montreal for several months. In fact, John Boynton, executive vice-president and chief marketing officer said in an interview, “they’re going so well we decided to start taking orders” for the modem and begin service soon. “The network is ready.”
Coverage will extend across the Ottawa River to Hull, Que., and the Gatineau area and down as far as Arnprior. Outside the LTE area the modem will drop to the Rogers’ HSPA+ network.
The Sierra Wireless USB Air Card will cost $169.99, or $79.99 on a three-year term. Rogers hasn’t said how much it will charge for LTE service, whether there will be a data cap or how much faster LTE will be over its existing HSPA+ network, which – under ideal conditions – can offer download speeds of up to 42 Mpbs. In the real world, however, users sees average speeds of about a quarter of that.
But LTE has the potential to offer significantly faster speeds. A U.S. test released this year by PC World showed that Verizon Wireless’ LTE laptop air cards provided average download speeds of 6.5Mbps and average upload speeds of 5Mbps, while HSPA+ networks such as those used by AT&T and T-Mobile delivered download speeds in the 2M to 4Mbps range.
Boynton refused to say what speed customers will be promised, other than it will be “three to four times faster” than the HSPA+ network. “Obviously it will be lightning fast in the early days” when few customers are on the network, he said. As more people get on the network average speeds will drop, but he said they will still be significantly faster than HSPA+.
“LTE will redefine the connected experience for our customers across Canada, changing the way we work, play and communicate,” Boynton said in the morning news release. “Rogers remains committed to bringing these innovations to Canadians first, beginning with Ottawa this summer and markets across the country soon after.”
“LTE significantly improves the speed and quality of the customer experience – it is where the global wireless industry is moving,” Dan Schieler, senior vice president of mobile computing for Sierra Wireless, said in a press release. “As a Canadian company on the forefront of this evolution, we are thrilled to have the opportunity to work with Rogers in launching our newest LTE device in Canada.”
LTE will deliver a best-in-class mobile experience for customers using highly interactive applications like multi-player gaming and rich multi-media communications, Rogers said in the news release. It will also deliver more usage capacity, meaning more customers can access the network at top speeds without affecting overall network performance.
Big Canadian carriers have been eager to move to LTE since U.S. carriers began announcing plans to adopt it last year. The first was MetroPCS, followed by Verizon Wireless. AT&T will start LTE service in select cities shortly. By last fall Rogers, BCE Inc.’s Bell Canada and Telus Corp. had announced they were in LTE trials.
It was thought that Canadian carriers would wait until Industry Canada has auctioned spectrum in the 700 Mhz band next year, a highly-desirable band because of its ability to carry signals through buildings better than the spectrum the carriers currently own. The longer they waited the more LTE-enabled devices would be on the market, went the reasoning. In the U.S., for example, carriers are offering
That changed when Telus Corp. announced it will start building an LTE network later this year, with commercial service to start in 2012 using the AWS spectrum in the 2100 Mzh band it bought in 2008. Rogers soon said it will start commercial LTE service at the end of this year, after which BCE Inc.’s Bell Canada revealed LTE plans.