Telus and Bell team up, plan to roll out 4G

Big news today in Canada’s wireless industry. Telus and Bell announced they are partnering to upgrade their wireless network to 3G nationwide, laying the groundwork for an eventual move to 4G. The move should put both companies on equal footing with Rogers, but playing catchup is expensive:

Although both companies declined to provide any clear insights to the cost of the upgrade, analysts expect it to be approximately between $750-million to $1-billion, split two ways between Bell and Telus. Mr. Entwistle said that initial capital expenditures for the new network are included in Telus’ original guidance of approximately $1.9-billion this year and is expected to be $750-million higher than historical levels in the following year.

I’m not sure how I missed it, but apparently rumors of this specific deal actually surfaced back in July. The first rumor, that Telus would switch to GSM, started back in January. The announcement today covers the launch of a network with High Speed Packet Access (HSPA/GSM). Bell and Telus hope to have the network ready just in time for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. After that the goal is to move to LTE (4G), which is in line with the plans of most other carriers around the world.

Clearly this is great news for Canadians. Having a single network standard will bring cost benefits, and faster time-to-market for hardware. I’m looking forward to it.

Here’s the Telus press release, and here’s the Bell press release. Both are incredibly similar, though neither one mentions the other! I guess we should use the term “partnership” lightly.

Telus and Bell to merge?

Post ImageI didn’t see this one coming, but apparently Telus is interested in acquiring Bell parent BCE Inc. Such a move would create a truly national telecommunications company here in Canada, but I am not sure that’s such a good thing. Telus CEO Darren Entwistle seems convinced though:

“This acquisition will create a strong, integrated competitor that would generate continued expansion and growth in the years ahead,” CEO Darren Entwistle said in a media conference call.

“This particular acquisition makes enormous sense for our country. This move will create a truly national provider with the size to stand along side any telecom company in the world.”

Fellow blogger Mark Evans speculates on the deal and wonders if Rogers and Shaw would cozy up in response.

Who knew the Canadian telecommunications industry could be so interesting?


Ringtones are a complete rip-off

Post ImageI’ve never purchased a ringtone for my cell phone, and I don’t ever intend to – they are just too damn expensive. How expensive? On Telus, ringtones cost $3.50 CDN each. With Bell, they range from $2.50 to $4.00 CDN each. And on Rogers, comparable ringtones start at $3.00 CDN each, excluding a 75 cent download fee.

So after a little math we get an average cost of $3.50 CDN for a single ringtone. What else could you buy for $3.50?

  • My favorite – two items from the McDonald’s Value Picks Menu. And for 49 cents more, you could get one of the Value Meals.
  • You could purchase three complete songs from iTunes.
  • Two 710 ml bottles of Gatorade at Wal-Mart.
  • Almost two Grande coffees at Starbucks, or two Extra Large coffees at McDonald’s.
  • You could store 20 GB of data at Amazon S3 for a month. Or 1 GB for 20 months. Or you could transfer up to 15 GB in a month.
  • Any one of the 63,275 items available on eBay in just the DVD, HD-DVD & Blu-ray category that are less than $3.50.
  • A breakfast sandwich from Tim Horton’s.
  • And of course, three items from pretty much any dollar store!

Can you think of a worse deal? Cupcakes are expensive. Perhaps gas – you could only get 4.3 liters in Edmonton today for $3.50 CDN. Transportation in general sucks actually. One trip on ETS costs $2.50 CDN.

The high price of ringtones is just sick. Why pay Bell $4.00 for a ringtone when you could pay them $5.99 and get an entire movie streamed to your phone? It’s absurd.

Please don’t buy ringtones – it only encourages the wireless carriers to charge such ridiculous prices.

Inukshuk Wireless Internet

Post ImageSay it with me now – wireless everywhere! Looks like it’ll be happening in Canada sooner than expected too, according to Om Malik:

The Canadians are taking a lead on the US, and are putting together a nationwide fixed wireless broadband network, according to Digital Home Canada. Two Canadian incumbents – Rogers Communications and Bell Canada have decided to pool all their licensed wireless broadband sepctrum into a new company – Inukshuk Internet – that will be equally owned and controlled by the cable guys and the phone company. They will also equally share transmission capacity and will work with other wireless broadband providers such as Clearwire to make sure that wireless broadband users can roam on other networks. Inukshuk will build and operate the network, that within three years should bring wireless broadband to two-thirds of Canadians. It is going to cost $200 million and will cover 40 cities and approximately 50 rural and remote communities across Canada.

This is a glimpse into the future my friends, mark my words. It won’t be long until we can walk anywhere and be connected to the Internet. And when a cable and a phone company team up, well you know it’s got to be important.

The Globe and Mail has more on the story:

“The promise of wireless broadband is here and Bell and Rogers have the expertise, resources and commitment to make it happen,” said Bob Berner, chief technology officer of Rogers. “This is a powerful tool for Canadian businesses and consumers — both of whom will benefit from the substantially increased and accelerated competition the network will bring.”

I think the name is particularly interesting, Inukshuk. An inukshuk, similar to the logo chosen for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, was historically important for navigating across the arctic tundra. As there were no natural landmarks (just endless seas of white) native peoples would build inukshuks to help them mark where they had been and to find their way to various locations. In that sense, inukshuks kind of connected the north. Wireless everywhere is going to connect the north again.

Read: Om Malik

WestJet adds Satellite TV

westjet and bell expressvuI like the idea of making our airplanes more “modern.” That is, Internet and TV should be on every flight! Via Tod Maffin:

WestJet is the first and only airline in Canada to offer an in-flight TV service that can be individually controlled by each guest from their own seat. WestJet’s complimentary satellite TV service offers a selection of up to 24 television channels from Bell ExpressVu in every seatback on all of WestJet’s 737-700 aircraft, including news, sports, music, children’s and leisure programming.

Satellite TV on WestJet? Why would you ever fly Air Canada again?

Read: Broadcaster