Rogers deploying very high-speed wireless network; commercial launch by fall

    Financial terms of the contract weren’t disclosed.

    The Toronto-based company that owns Rogers Wireless, Rogers Cable and a host of other businesses, disclosed last week along with its latest financial results that it will deploy its next-generation network sooner than anticipated.

    On Monday, Rogers announced its long-time supplier – the Canadian subsidiary of Swedish telecom equipment vendor LM Ericsson – would supply the UMTS/HSDPA network (Universal Mobile Telephone System/High-Speed Packet Access.)

    Rogers Wireless president Rob Bruce said the new technology will be eight to 10 times faster than the EDGE (Enhanced Data for Global Evolution) network that Rogers has deployed to cover 94 per cent of Canada’s populated areas.

    “More importantly, it will be leap-frogging the competition, delivering speeds of 1 1/2-to two-times faster than the new EV-DO networks that Bell and Telus have recently been touting,” Bruce said in a phone interview Monday.

    “Customers, we think, will see the same kind of quantum increase in utility and benefit that they did when they moved from dial-up (Internet) on their computers to high-speed Internet.”

    Wireless data services accounted for $91.5 million in revenue for the fourth quarter of 2005, or 9.4 per cent of overall Rogers Wireless revenues for that period. It was also one of the fastest growing segments of the Rogers business, growing by 87 per cent from the fourth quarter of 2004.

    Rogers made its announcement at a major annual wireless trade show in Barcelona, Spain
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    The HSDPA wireless network, working with new hardware that customers will have to get, will enable new applications such as video conferencing, interactive multi-player gaming, and dynamic content to navigate the mobile Internet.

    The company expects that by the end of 2006, there will be five to seven HSDPA-enabled devices on the market for its customers, including two AirCards – made by Sierra Wireless (TSX:SW – news) for use in laptops – and three to five handsets.

    Rogers Wireless, Canada’s largest cellphone company since it acquired the Fido network in late 2004, said it will begin deploying the UMTS/HSDPA technology immediately for first commercial launch in the fall.

    LM Ericsson has one of its largest development centres in the world in Montreal, where software for network infrastructure is developed including for multi-media services that can be carried over HSDPA and other wireless networks.

    “We have been a partner of Rogers for about 20 years,” Ericsson Canada president and CEO Mark Henderson from Barcelona.