Rogers and Telus spend big in 700MHz spectrum auction

Big spending Canadian operator Rogers Communications has dropped C$3.29bn (US$2.98bn) on two 12MHz blocks of paired lower 700MHz band spectrum licences in the nation’s latest spectrum auction. Rival Telus also splashed its cash, shelling out C$1.14bn on spectrum licences equating to a national average of 16.6MHz in the band. The Canadian government raised a sizeable total of C$5.27bn during the auction and the licences issued will remain valid for 20 years.

Rogers is the nation’s leading operator with 9.46 million subscribers as of September 2013, according to Informa’s WCIS. Telus has 7.71 million subscribers, putting it virtually neck and neck with Bell Wireless, which has 7.74 million. Bell also spent C$566m in the auction acquiring 31 licences.

Guy Laurence, president and CEO at Rogers, said that the spectrum the operator acquired places it in a strong position to deliver the “ultimate video experience” to its subscribers.

“Not all 700MHz spectrum in the auction was the same; we secured the beachfront property we wanted. You either want your customers to have the best for the next 20 years or you don’t,” he said. He added that the 700MHz spectrum is the highest-quality wireless frequency ever auctioned in Canada.

Telus said that its newly-acquired spectrum will enable it to deliver improved LTE coverage to customers. It added that the 700MHz band of spectrum is valuable due to its ability to penetrate into buildings and propagate over long distances.

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He added that the spectrum will enable Telus to further enhance its coverage in urban areas, adding capacity for our more than 7.8 million customers.“Today we deliver 4G LTE to 80 per cent of Canada’s population. The addition of this 700 MHz spectrum will enable us to expand our LTE coverage into rural areas, extending Telus’ national 4G LTE network to 97 per cent of the population well in advance of the auction’s build requirements,” said Telus president and CEO Darren Entwistle.

“Indeed, we have already begun to prepare our wireless cell sites to deploy 700 MHz spectrum, and plan to begin operationalising the spectrum for the benefit of our customers as soon as it is made available to us later this year,” Entwhistle added.

Commenting on Bell’s spectrum win, Wade Oosterman, president of Bell Mobility, said: “Bell already offers LTE service to 82 per cent of the national population, and this new 700 MHz spectrum will help us take the network further: To towns, rural locations and remote communities across the country including Canada’s North.”

The operator added that Bell’s LTE buildout plan will bring LTE services to more than 98 per cent of Canada’s population.

Multiplay services provider Vidéotron acquired seven paired spectrum licences for C$233.33m, while Cable TV and ISP Bragg won four paired spectrum licences for C$20.3m. Regional operators MTS and Sasktel also acquired one paired spectrum licence each, paying C$8.77m and C$7.56m respectively, while new entrant Feenix also acquired the same for C$284,000.

“Following this auction, at least four providers in every region of the country will be able to offer Canadians, including those in rural areas, improved wireless services on the latest devices,” the Government of Canada said in a statement.

It added that the next major auction of wireless spectrum licences will be the 2500MHz band, which is scheduled to begin in April 2015.

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