Telus, Bell almost tied in wireless subscribers

The country’s two biggest phone companies delivered another quarter of sold financial results driven by soaring wireless business.

Telus Corp. said Thursday it added 100,000 net new postpaid subscribers in the quarter ending June30, bringing the total number of its cellular subscribers to 7.7 million.  BCE Inc. said its Bell Wireless division added 96,390 net new post paid subscribers, bringing its total to 7.86 million subscribers.  

The two carriers along with Rogers Communications Inc., which two weeks ago reported adding 98,000 net new postpaid wireless subscribers, continue to overwhelmingly dominate the cellular market with just over 90 per cent of subscribers.

Nevertheless executives of both Bell and Telus used the release of their financials to continue to hammer Ottawa directly or indirectly over its wireless policies they say favour U.S. carriers like Verizon Communications, which is negotiating to buy startups Wind Mobile and possibly Mobilicity.

In its press release Bell urged the federal government “to close the loopholes in new wireless regulations” which it says were intended only for “competitive wireless startups.” In the Telus release Entwistle noted recent independent reports that say Canadians “have access to the best quality wireless service in the world.” The reports also show wireless pricing of voice and data services here “falls in the middle” compared to other G7 countries.

In its overall results, Vancouver-based Telus – the incumbent phone company in B.C. and Alberta – said its second quarter revenue increased by six per cent over the same period a year ago to $2.83 billion. Profit was about $286 million, down 4.3 per cent from the same period a year ago.

The company said the $161 million increase in consolidated revenue was generated by six per cent growth in both wireless and wireline revenue (which includes its high-speed Internet and Optik TV offerings. 

In addition to the wireless gains, Telus said added 31,000 TV subscribers in its battle with cableco Shaw Communications in the west, plus 13,000 Internet customers. Overall it has just over 13.2 million customers.

Unlike Rogers and Bell, which have diversified into sports and broadcasting, Telus remains focused on being a telecom provider and wants to remind investors that it isn’t going away.

In a statement released with the financial results, CEO Darren Entwistle noted the company has returned $1.175 billion to shareholders so far this year through dividends and share purchases.

“Owing to the excellence of our winning strategy since 2000, Telus [TSX: T] has earned the position of being one of the few companies in the world that can simultaneously make significant investments in broadband technology and client services that underpin our future success and as well, return cash to investors on a material and sustained basis,” he said.

Montreal-based BCE, the incumbent phone company in Ontario, Quebec and, through its Bell Aliant division, the Maritimes. It also owns the CTV network and a number of cable broadcast properties including Astral Media. Overall it reported revenue for the quarter of $5 billion, up slightly from the same period a year ago. Net earnings were $571 million, down 22 per cent from the same period a year ago. It blamed the drop on the resolution of certain tax matters, increased interest expenses in financing the Astral acquisition and loses on equity derivative contracts related to its executive compensation plans.

Bell Wireless operating revenue during the quarter was up 5.4 per cent to $1.44 billion compared to the same period a year ago. Wireless data revenue grew just over 21 per cent and now accounts for more than 40 per cent of total wireless service revenue of $1.3 billion.

During the quarter Bell [TSX: BCE] added a net 50,555 subscribers to its IPTV Fibe TV offering, the highest quarterly increase since the service launched, which competes against Rogers cable in Ontario and Videotron in Quebec.

“Bell’s unmatched investment in Canada’s broadband infrastructure, innovative new products, and strong execution by the almost 60,000 members of the Bell national team have resulted in robust financial performance and rapid expansion in our growth services,” BCE chief executive officer  George Cope said in a statement.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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