updated 12:10 pm EDT, Fri October 10, 2008
Bell and Telus Pick 4G
Bell and Telus today announced that they would both choose Long Term Evolution (LTE) as their fourth-generation (4G) cellular network standard. The move will dramatically increase the speed of mobile Internet access in the country and will give subscribers to either of the competing carriers the option of roaming on the other's network but also to American providers, most of which will also move to LTE at the same time.
The standard is estimated to offer download speeds as high as 100Mbps or higher versus the 7.2Mbps possible on today's fastest 3G networks; it also has lower latency that makes multiplayer games and video streaming feasible.
To support the transition, both also say they will now add High Speed Packet Access (HSPA) on the 850MHz and 1,900MHz bands to their existing 3G networks. The standard is normally used for GSM phone networks but is being added to create an easier transition to LTE as the primary standard in the future. Both Bell and Telus say they plan to keep their existing CDMA and EVDO networks intact; Telus adds that its iDEN-based Mike network, which handles push-to-talk phones, will also continue ahead.
The two providers both anticipate having commercial 4G service ready by early 2010. Bell has a more specific window and claims it should have its LTE running by the start of the Olympic Winter Games near the start of that year. Verizon in the US is planning its shift in a similar timeframe and will be joined by AT&T afterwards.
Adding HSPA significantly alters the Canadian cellular industry. Both carriers will now share the same 3G standard as Rogers, which so far has been the only HSPA provider in Canada. As a result, customers will potentially have the option of switching from Rogers to another carrier without having to exchange phones. The use of similar frequencies also gives Bell and Telus access to the same phones as their fellow rival, including the once off-limits iPhone 3G and the BlackBerry Bold.