Canada’s Cell Providers Dump CDMA for GSM



Telus (wikipedia), Canada’s No. 2 phone company, said today that it will build a next-generation wireless network with Canada’s biggest telecom company, BCE (Bell Canada), as they fight for market share with rival Rogers Communications.

Bell Canada and Telus currently provide CDMA/EVDO 3G service across the country. The new GSM upgrade will overlay this network.

Bell’s transition to the global 4G LTE standard with a combined EVDO and HSPA network path aligns us with more than 30 major carriers worldwide planning a similar move to LTE,” said Stephen Howe, Senior Vice President for Bell Mobility, putting a happy face on the prospect of two forklift upgrades. TELUS also plans to support its CDMA and Mike (iDEN) customers for the foreseeable future. The project is expected to cost TELUS about $750 million.

Rogers Wireless, Canada’s largest wireless carrier, is a GSM cellular provider.

The HSPA cellular upgrade is expected to be completed in early 2010. The pact with BCE — traditionally a big Telus rival — is expected to lower deployment costs as well as “significantly improving the economics of the investment,” said Telus CEO Darren Entwistle.

The CRTC (Canadian Radio-Television Commission) is similar to the U.S. FCC. It does not deal with the availability of spectrum for mobile phone service, which is part of the Industry Canada mandate, nor the maintenance of competition, which is largely the responsibility of The Competition Bureau, says Wikipedia.

Canada’s AWS auction this May, in the 1.7/2.1 GHz band, was expected to raise around $1 billion for the government treasury, but bids totaled more than C$4 billion ($3.9 billion) — says Reuters.

Canada’s big three cellular providers, Rogers, Telus and Bell, will face competition from AWS spectrum winners. Privately held Globalive Communications, for example, acquired AWS spectrum across the country and plans to roll out service next year.

Canada’s government allowed new players to break into the cellular phone market. A total of 105 MHz of AWS radio spectrum was open for bidding (map), which included 40 MHz of AWS spectrum specifically set aside for new players, with another 65 MHz of spectrum for all bidders.

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission says the new entrants were Quebecor, Globalive Communications and Shaw Communications

Meanwhile, in the WiMAX arena, a total of 839 regional licenses exist in Canada, says Wimax.com, with 170 allocated in the 2.3GHz band, allowing fixed and mobile applications; while 669 licenses are allocated in the 3.5 GHz designated for FWA (Fixed Wireless applications).

There are a total of 28 license holders in these bands. The main license holders, in terms of the number of regional licenses owned, are Inukshuk Wireless with 323 licenses, TELUS with 142 licenses and Yourlink with 81 licenses.

License holders in the 2500MHz band include Inukshuk Wireless, Sasktel, Look Communications, Yourlink and Craig Wireless.

Inukshuk Wireless is an equally owned partnership between Bell Canada and Rogers Communications created to build and manage a Canada-wide wireless network in the 2.5 GHz band, licensed by Industry Canada. Inukshuk Wireless’s network footprint will cover 45 cities and over 100 un-served rural and underserved communities across Canada by the end of 2008. Inukshuk also has a roaming agreement with Clearwire WiMAX in the United States. The BCE announcement to support HSPA/LTE could be construed as a slight to WiMAX, although cellular roaming between countries makes that decision understandable.

Globalive says Canadians pay an average of 60% more for mobile wireless services than Americans and only 58% of Canadians have a wireless device, compared to the United States (more than 77%) and the United Kingdom and Hong Kong (over 100%). Canada, with a population of 33.4 million, has about 65% broadband penetration.

Posted by Sam Churchill on .

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