Rogers launches LTE network promising ‘faster speeds’

The country’s next generation LTE wireless data network will bring “multiple benefits” to business, says a Rogers Communications Inc. executive.

“Business that are facilitated by things like video conferencing and other things,” will see advantages of the average 12 Megabits per second download speed LTE offers, Rob Bruce, president of the cable operator’s communications division, told reporters Thursday at the commercial launch of the network in the capital region.

“These faster speeds make those kinds of applications, especially video applications, a thousand times better than they’ve ever been before.”

Rogers made good on its vow to launch LTE before arch competitors Telus Corp. and BCE Inc.’s Bell Canada. However, for the time being only those in an area bounded by Arnprior, Ont. and Quebec’s Gatineau region can take advantage of the technology.

This fall Rogers will turn on LTE networks in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver. Customers can reserve an LTE-capable data stick for laptops until 9 a.m. on July 11.

Bell has said its LTE commercial service will start before the end of the year in select cities, while Telus said customers will be able to buy LTE service early next year.

Related Story: Video Rewind: A closer look at LTE technology

Lawrence Surtees, vice-president of communications research at IDC Canada, who was at the launch says right now businesses might not be aware of the benefits of LTE, which has the potential to offer download speeds twice as fast as the current HSPA+ networks of Rogers, Bell and Telus.

“Ultimately the applications used on wireless data networks will be a boon for business,” he said in an interview. “The greater speed and capacity of these next-generation networks is absolutely an essential prerequisite for mass volume applications like machine-to-machine communications.”

For example, he said, utilities might leverage LTE’s speed to link wireless electrical meters in millions of businesses and homes. In Europe, he noted, all new cars will soon have to carry wireless emergency calling capability that only a robust wireless network can support.

“In Canada, I believe the greatest untapped potential for wireless is in the business market,” he said.

“Wireless’ popularity is unabated,” he added. “It’s the single most explosive growing phenomenon in human history. The rate of growth and adoption in wireless exceeds electronics, computing, the automobile. And as long as there’s growth, the network providers have that as the single reason to strive for greater efficiency and capalcity in their networks.”

That, he said, will make the case for businesses to shift to LTE from wired networks.

Surtees faults Rogers for not being more imaginative in pushing the benefits to business of LTE beyond mere speed.

Speed, however, is what captures headlines and Surtees expects LTE will feed what he calls the “perennial speed/capacity war” between Rogers, Bell and Telus.
So far startups Wind Mobile and Mobilicity have been quiet about their LTE timetables.

Rogers says its LTE network offers typical download speeds ranging from 12 to 25 Megabits per second, depending on network congestion, the spectrum used, the topography of the area users are in and the weather.

For the time being those who want to take advantage of LTE in the Ottawa area will only be able to do it with a Sierra Wireless data stick for laptops, which costs $79.99 with a three-year data plan.

LTE data plans start at $45 a month for 1.5 Gigabytes of data, $60 a month for 3 Gb, $75 a month for 6 Gb and $90 a month for 9 Gb of data. Rogers offers a flex plan that shifts subscribers up or down the plans depending on their monthly usage. Going over 9 Gb will cost $10 a gigabyte.

But Surtees said that kind of pricing won’t attract a lot of businesses.

Handsets from Samsung and HTC will be available later this year. Rogers had no details on their form factor or capabilities.

After Ottawa, Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver, the Rogers LTE network will be expanded next year to 21 of the country’s largest cities.

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