Both Bell and Telus are ready to launch their own 3G HSPA networks next month, with Telus confirming November 5 as the launch date. The move, including the confirmed availability of the iPhone through both carriers, is heating up the wireless marketplace in Canada.
Both Bell and Telus' HSPA networks will afford wireless data download speeds of up to 21 megabits-per-second (Mbps), international roaming to more than 200 countries, and access to a wider variety of devices than the carriers have ever been exposed to, including the aforementioned Apple iPhone.
The launch of the new network will also afford a smoother transition to the next-generation (4G) wireless technology known as LTE (Long-Term Evolution). Having the network up and running by next month is also especially important given the holiday season, as well as the upcoming Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver, BC, for which Bell is the exclusive telecommunications partner.
While upcoming phone models have not yet been confirmed (iPhone excepted), we can expect to see the latest and greatest devices hitting the market simultaneously through all three main carriers, including Rogers Wireless, which already has its own HSPA network up and running. Telus does confirm, however, that we'll see some "exciting new devices from HTC, Huawei, LG, Nokia, RIM, Samsung, and Sierra Wireless in time for the holidays" and notes that some of these will be "on an exclusive basis."
Up until now, Rogers Wireless has had essentially free reign to some of the most compelling devices, given that it is the only GSM carrier in Canada, and was the only one with an HSPA network. This development, says Telus, "ends the monopoly access to iconic devices in Canada's wireless industry, for the first time giving consumers choice in service providers, smartphones and rate plans."
Bell differentiates its HSPA network by noting that the vast majority is being built with high-speed fibre. "Enough fibre to wrap halfway around the globe!" muses Stephen Howe, CTO at Bell Mobility, adding that the network also includes an "all-IP architecture for enhanced reliability." Bell and Telus leveraged an existing network sharing agreement to get their HSPA networks build up on time, and in a cost effective manner. The infrastructure was supplied by Nokia Siemens Networks and Huawei Technologies.
Both Bell and Telus will continue to operate their CDMA networks (as well as Mike for Telus), and will support them for the "foreseeable future."
Telus will offer the iPhone on November 5 as well, the same day its HSPA service commences. The 8GB iPhone 3G will sell for $99.99 on a three-year term ($599.99 on its own), the 16 GB 3G S for $199.99 on a three-year term ($699.99 on its own), and the 32GB 3G S for $299.99 on a three-year contract ($799.99 on its own.) Rogers sells the 3G for $99.99, the 3G S (16 GB) for $199.99 or $680 with no contract, and the 3G S (32 GB) for $299.99 or $780 with no contract. Bell has not yet confirmed pricing for the iPhone.
Now that manufacturers have the opportunity to launch their 3G devices through all three carriers simultaneously, the holiday season upon us, and new carriers like WIND Mobile and DAVE Wireless gearing up to their launch own competing services early next year, it will definitely be a buyer's market in the wireless landscape for the next few months, and hopefully beyond. Will product pricing come down? Will customers jump ship from one carrier to another? (Remember, with number portability, customers can port an existing cell phone number to any carrier easily.) Or will those with Bell and Telus simply be pleased that they can now select from a greater roster of phones than ever before? Stay tuned.