Rogers Set to ‘Ignite’ Gigabit Rollout in Toronto; 4m Homes to be Covered by End-2016

Rogers Communications, Canada’s second largest broadband provider by subscribers, has confirmed that the rollout of its planned 1Gbps internet service will commence this year in downtown Toronto and the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). Parts of the city earmarked for coverage include: Harbourfront, Cabbagetown, Riverdale, King Street West, Queen Street West, the Financial District, the Discovery District, Yonge & Bloor, Vaughan, Markham, Richmond Hill, Pickering, Ajax and Whitby. By the end of 2016 the Gigabit service – which will be branded ‘Ignite’ – will be available to over four million homes, representing Rogers entire cable footprint across Ontario and Atlantic Canada.

Thanks to TeleGeography for the article. 

Telus Reveals CAD1 Billion Vancouver FTTH Project

Western Canada’s largest telco Telus Communications has announced a plan to invest an additional CAD1 billion (USD760 million) to connect the majority of homes and businesses in the city of Vancouver directly to the company’s fibre optic network over the next five years. In a release on the quadruple-play operator’s website, CEO Darren Entwhistle said that the rollout in the British Columbian city would add more than 400,000 homes, businesses, hospitals, community centres and municipal offices to the direct fibre footprint, whilst the fibre last-mile infrastructure would also serve as an ultra-high speed backbone for Telus’ cellular network. When the first Vancouver neighbourhoods are fully connected – scheduled for early 2016 – residents and businesses will initially be offered internet speeds of up to 150Mbps, while in the coming years Telus says it will raise this speed cap on the gigabit-enabled FTTH network ‘as demand continues to increase’.

The fibre plan for Vancouver forms part of Telus’ commitment to invest an additional CAD4 billion in British Columbia through 2018. When combined with operational expenses, this will bring Telus’ total investment in British Columbia over the next four years to more than CAD11.5 billion. By 2018, Telus will have invested more than CAD47 billion in British Columbia since 2000.

Thanks to TeleGeography for the article.

Xplornet Explores IPO, Sources Say

Bloomberg reports that Canadian rural broadband specialist Xplornet Communications is working with Bank of Montreal and Royal Bank of Canada on an initial public offering (IPO) planned for this year, according to anonymous sources with knowledge of the matter who added that the New Brunswick-based fixed-wireless ISP has not yet decided on the stake size or price range. In May Xplornet’s management expressed the desire to examine new ways to continue growing, including a potential IPO, after revealing existing investors had put roughly CAD1 billion (USD758 million) into the company over the past decade.

Thanks to TeleGeography for the article.

Telus, Bell Mop Up Residual AWS-3 Licences in Prairies

Nationwide operators Telus and Bell Canada were declared winners of residual AWS-3 (2100MHz/1700MHz) 4G spectrum licences at the end of August in the ‘leftover’ concession auction run by Industry Canada. Telus paid CAD58 million (USD43.8 million) for six additional AWS-3 licence blocks covering Manitoba and Saskatchewan, while Bell secured another nine AWS-3 concessions (three in each of the Far North territories: Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut) costing CAD206,000. The two national operators outbid SaskTel (in Saskatchewan), MTS (Manitoba) and SSi Micro (Far North). There were no takers for three leftover 700MHz licences.

The main AWS-3 auction earlier this year augmented the Canadian cellcos’ existing AWS-1 frequencies (awarded in 2008). In March 2015 Telus paid CAD1.511 billion for 15 regional 2100MHz/1700MHz licence blocks in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Southern Ontario, Eastern Ontario, Eastern Quebec and Southern Quebec, and following the residual auction Telus now has 21 AWS-3 spectrum licences covering all major regions of the country. In March 2015 Bell bid CAD499.9 million for 13 AWS-3 regional licence blocks in Newfoundland & Labrador, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, Northern Quebec, Southern Ontario, Northern Ontario, Nunavut, Northwest Territories and Yukon, meaning it now holds a total of 22 blocks in the band. The March 2015 auction also saw Wind Mobile, Videotron and Eastlink buy AWS-3 concessions set aside for newer entrants.

Thanks to TeleGeography for the article.

Xplornet Acquires Calgary WiMAX Operator Platinum

Canadian nationwide rural fixed-wireless broadband provider Xplornet Communications has agreed to acquire 100% of Calgary-based WiMAX network operator Platinum Communications for CAD0.16 (USD0.12) per share in cash. Platinum operates a wireless broadband network offering internet and digital phone services to residents and businesses across the province of Alberta, catering primarily to rural and near-urban areas that are often beyond the reach of traditional (fixed) internet providers. Bernard Parkinson, CEO of Platinum, stated: ‘Based upon the current industry pressures in the wireless internet services provider industry and after actively reviewing the options available to the shareholders of Platinum, we believe this transaction offers attractive value and presents an excellent opportunity for Platinum’s shareholders.’ The takeover has been unanimously approved by the board of directors of Platinum, while completion of the transaction is subject to standard termination provisions and customary closing conditions including receipt of court approval, approval (at least two-thirds) of Platinum’s shareholders, and necessary regulatory approvals. Voting will take place at a special shareholders meeting in late-October 2015, with closing anticipated to occur shortly thereafter.

Thanks to TeleGeography for the article.

Bell Rolls Out 290Mbps Tri-band LTE-A, Claiming North American First

Bell Canada claims it is the first in North America to roll out commercial tri-band LTE Advanced (LTE-A) network technology, giving customers in Toronto, Hamilton, Oakville and Halifax access to mobile data downlink speeds up to a theoretical maximum 290Mbps from 21 August 2015, when the new Samsung Galaxy S6 edge+ and Galaxy Note5 smartphones become available. Expected average mobile data speeds are 12Mbps to 87Mbps.

Bell will expand its new tri-band 290Mbps LTE-A network – based on 700MHz, 2100MHz (AWS) and 2600MHz spectrum – across other cities in due course. Bell says it introduced 220Mbps LTE-A services (expected average downlink 12Mbps to 60Mbps) in February this year by combining bands to increase network capacity and data speeds, and discloses that the LTE-A network is now available in more than 40 communities across Canada. Meanwhile, Bell has continued to raise LTE coverage (peak speeds of 75Mbps-150Mbps, average 12Mbps-40Mbps) via 700MHz rollouts in smaller towns and remote areas, currently reaching a 93% national LTE population footprint and aiming for ‘more than 98%’ by the end of 2015.

Blaik Kirby, president of Bell Mobility, said: ‘Tri-band LTE-A is a turbo boost for data-intensive activities such as streaming HD video, playing graphics-intense multiplayer games, or downloading large business files.’

Thanks to TeleGeography for the article.

Wind Selling LTE Spectrum in Prairies to MTS, Sasktel; MTS Moves to Divest Allstream

Canada’s fourth largest cellular operator by subscribers Wind Mobile has won approval from the telecoms ministry Industry Canada to transfer its unused AWS (1700MHz/2100MHz) spectrum licences in the Prairie provinces of Manitoba and Saskatchewan to the two regions’ respective incumbent telcos Manitoba Telecom Services (MTS Allstream) and SaskTel, which will each add the frequencies to their existing 4G LTE bandwidth. SaskTel CEO Ron Styles said in a press release: ‘Our 4G LTE network in the nine major urban centres in Saskatchewan operates on the AWS-1 spectrum band and with these additional blocks we can deliver significantly more bandwidth and faster speeds.’ SaskTel’s communications director Michelle Englot added, however, that final terms including price had not yet been agreed, as the Regina-based telco remained in negotiations with Wind. MTS, on the other hand, released a statement confirming that it has agreed to purchase 15MHz of paired AWS-1 spectrum in Manitoba from Wind for CAD45 million (USD34.3 million), saying that the acquisition will ‘significantly increase the speed and customer experience on the MTS wireless network to the benefit of many Manitobans.’

Wind’s CEO Alek Krstajic stated that the company will channel the proceeds from the spectrum sales into network expansion and quality improvements including LTE services in Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta.

MTS added in its release that it will finance the CAD45 million spectrum payment to Wind using existing credit facilities which it plans to repay following its planned sale of its national long-distance and enterprise telecoms division Allstream. The Winnipeg Free Press notes that in MTS’ latest results for Q2 2015, the dramatic downsizing of the Toronto-based Allstream division drove free cash flow up 41% to CAD45.4 million, while the company said that management has shifted focus to manage the exit of Allstream ‘that will maximise value while promoting deal certainty.’ MTS has retained advisors and plans to formally approach prospective purchasers for Allstream in the second half of this year. MTS’ revenue for the second quarter was down 1.2% year-on-year to CAD398.3 million, EBITDA fell 14.5% to CAD121.9 million and net income dropped 47.5% to CAD10.4 million.

Thanks to TeleGeography for the article.

Videotron Tests 1Gbps Broadband

Quebec-based quadruple-play operator Videotron has confirmed plans to introduce broadband speeds of 1Gbps-plus on its cable network, up from its current top speed of 200Mbps. A press release said that Videotron is enabling households and businesses in the Greater Montreal area to reach ‘and even exceed’ 1Gbps, with testing of the new service ongoing in the city.

Thanks to TeleGeography for the article.

CRTC Mandates Wholesale Fibre Broadband Access

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) yesterday announced new measures in the wholesale fixed broadband market, including a ruling forcing the country’s largest internet providers to open up their high speed fibre-based access networks to smaller rivals. The regulator said the measures are to foster competition and provide Canadians with more choice and innovative services at reasonable prices.

Following an extensive review, the CRTC found that: ‘the large incumbent companies [including Bell Canada/Bell Aliant, Rogers Communications, Shaw Communications, Videotron and Telus Communications] continue to possess market power in the provision of wholesale high speed access services’ and it is therefore requiring that they make their new-generation services such as fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) available to competitors. The summary continued: ‘The demand by Canadians for higher speed services will only increase in the coming years … Large incumbent companies will now have to make their fibre facilities available to their competitors. This measure will ensure that Canadians have more choice for high speed Internet services and are able to fully leverage the benefits of the broadband home or business.’

Another aspect of the CRTC’s decision involves scrapping the currently mandated ‘aggregated’ wholesale high speed access (HSA), which has enabled smaller competitors to lease a package of both the access facilities they need to connect to customer locations, and transport facilities, from larger incumbents, without requiring the smaller players to invest substantially in their networks. Under the new policy decision, the CRTC stated that: ‘The large incumbent companies will continue to be required to provide access to wholesale high speed access services throughout their region and transition this access to a disaggregated architecture. The provision of wholesale high speed access services on a disaggregated basis will be implemented in phases across Canada, starting with Ontario and Quebec.’ The regulator indicated that it will take up to three years to phase out aggregated access.

Furthermore, under the policy decision (Telecom Regulatory Policy CRTC 2015-326), copper unbundled local loops (ULLs), which in Canada the CRTC considers ‘a legacy service used primarily to support retail competition for local phone services and lower-speed Internet access’, will no longer be mandated and will be phased out.

The regulator also confirmed that ‘Ethernet and high speed competitor digital network services’, which are primarily used to support retail competition in the business data services market, will remain forborne from price regulation and not mandated.

Currently mandated wholesale services (ahead of the decision):

  • ULLs
  • Incumbent local exchange carriers’ (ILECs’) aggregated wholesale HSA service
  • Cablecos’ aggregated wholesale HSA service (also known as TPIA) service
  • Interconnection services
  • Public good’ services

Wholesale services mandated as a result of this decision:

  • ILEC and cableco disaggregated wholesale HSA services
  • FTTP access facilities
  • Interconnection services
  • Public good services

Wholesale services that are no longer mandated or that remain forborne from price regulation:

  • ULLs
  • Ethernet access and transport services
  • High speed CDN access and transport services.

The CRTC noted that its next steps include hammering out the details for implementing the wholesale HSA/transport service disaggregation, and setting the costs for wholesale fibre access.

Thanks to TeleGeography for the article.

Bell Begins Gigabit Broadband Rollout

Bell Canada has announced it is launching 1Gbps fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) services under the Gigabit Fibe banner, initially for 50,000 homes and businesses in Toronto during summer 2015, with a target of eventually delivering 1Gbps services to 1.1 million premises across the city. Bell will also launch Gigabit Fibe in selected locations in other cities in Ontario, Quebec and the Atlantic provinces before the end of 2015. Services will initially offer a maximum 940Mbps speed but will rise to the promised 1Gbps or higher in 2016 as modem equipment is upgraded. The operator’s press release adds that in Toronto, around 70% of the network will be aerial (strung on utility poles via a partnership with Toronto Hydro) and the remainder underground.

Other cities lined up for Gigabit Fibe include: Quebec City, Montreal, Laval, Blainville, Gatineau, Joliette, Saint-Jerome, Chicoutimi, Sherbrooke, Vaudreuil/Valleyfield, St. John’s, Charlottetown, Halifax, Saint John, Fredericton, Moncton, Sudbury, North Bay, Peterborough and Kingston.

Thanks to TeleGeography for the article.