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Rogers outpacing rivals to launch fast wireless

12. Nadir Mohamed -- As CEO of Rogers, the lingering mystery is what becomes of Sportsnet, a network of sports radio stations and the faltering Toronto Blue Jays: does he prop them up, or take them down?

Peter Power/Peter Power/The Globe and Mail

Rogers Communications Inc. is leapfrogging its competitors to launch the next generation of high-speed wireless technology in four major Canadian cities by the end of the year, promising that Internet access on mobile devices will be as fast as on home and office computers.

Canada's major telecommunications companies have been racing to lay the groundwork for the faster networks, known as Long Term Evolution (LTE), which can quickly stream video and other data-heavy wireless traffic.

Telus Corp. has said it will launch the service in 2012. BCE Inc., which owns phone giant Bell Canada, is running test trials in Montreal and Hamilton, but has not yet announced roll-out plans for the service. But Rogers appears to have jumped ahead of its rivals, however, with its announcement Wednesday that LTE will be available in four cities by the end of 2011.

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"We're putting a stake in the ground - LTE is going to be the gold standard going forward, that's where the world is going," Rogers CEO Nadir Mohamed told reporters following Rogers' annual shareholder meeting in Toronto. "I don't think there's any debate the future is LTE."

Mr. Mohamed said he is convinced Long Term Evolution (LTE) network technology, which will more than triple the Internet speed on mobile devices, is the future of the wireless industry and will "fuel Canada's digital economy" in this century.

Rogers said LTE service will be available in Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver and Ottawa by the end of this year, and will be operational in Canada's 25 biggest markets by the end of 2012. The LTE network will be three to four times faster than the advanced version of the existing high-speed mobile network known as High Speed Packet Access or HSPA+.

Rogers chief executive officer Nadir Mohamed said he is convinced that Long Term Evolution (LTE) network technology, which will more than triple the Internet speed on mobile devices, is the future of the wireless industry and will "fuel Canada's digital economy" in this century.

"We're putting a stake in the ground - LTE is going to be the gold standard going forward, that's where the world is going," Mr. Mohamed told reporters following Rogers' annual shareholder meeting in Toronto. "I don't think there's any debate the future is LTE."

Canada's major telecommunications companies have been laying the groundwork for LTE in Canada, and Telus Corp. announced earlier this month that it will launch the service in 2012. Rogers appears to have jumped ahead, however, with its announcement Wednesday that LTE will be available in four cities by the end of 2011.

BCE Inc., which owns phone giant Bell Canada, has also announced it is on a "migration path" to adopting LTE and is running test trials in Montreal and Hamilton, but has not yet announced rollout plans for the service.

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Rogers said LTE service will be available in Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver and Ottawa by the end of this year, and will be operational in Canada's 25 biggest markets by the end of 2012. The LTE network will be three to four times faster than the advanced version of the existing high-speed mobile network known as High Speed Packet Access or HSPA+.

The technology will allow gamers to play graphics-heavy, multiplayer games on their mobile devices without any lag time or delay, make video phone calls that are "virtually seamless" and allow customers to stream live television or movies in high definition to smart phones, laptops or tablets with no buffering or lag time, Rogers said in its announcement Wednesday.

Users will need new phones or mobile devices that can operate on the LTE network. Mr. Mohamed would not reveal when the devices will be available for sale, saying he didn't want to tip his hand about competitive information.

But he noted that LTE is being deployed by Verizon Communications Inc. and AT&T Inc. in the United States, so the device technology is already being developed.

Mr. Mohamed also made a pitch Wednesday for Rogers to be granted access to the new 700-megahertz radio frequency spectrum, which is expected to be auctioned by the federal government in late 2012.

While LTE will launch initially on the radio spectrum currently used by Rogers, Mr. Mohamed said big U.S. companies are building their LTE network on the 700-MHz spectrum, which offers better coverage in remote and rural areas.

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Rogers and other major phone companies are concerned that the 700-MHz spectrum will be reserved for new entrants in the market as part of the federal government's efforts to open the market to greater competition.

"It would be a shame if our nine million wireless customers were denied the benefit of this low-band spectrum," Mr. Mohamed told shareholders at the company's annual meeting. "Put simply, we need rules that apply equally to everyone."

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About the Author
Real Estate Reporter

Janet McFarland is the real estate reporter for The Globe and Mail’s Report on Business, with a focus on residential real estate trends. She joined Report on Business in 1995, and has specialized in reporting on corporate governance, executive compensation, pension policy, business law, securities regulation and enforcement of white-collar crime. More

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