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Bell, Rogers to build wireless Canadian canopy

Thu, 09/15/2005 - 8:00pm
Jeff Baumgartner, CED

Two traditional competitors in Canada have found common ground when it comes to the build-out of a massive wireless-based broadband network.

Rogers Communications, which operates Rogers Cable, and Bell Canada have agreed to jointly build and manage a high-speed wireless network set to reach two-thirds of the Canadian population in less than three years.

Rogers and Bell estimated the initial network deployment costs will be $200 million over that period, creating a footprint covering more than 40 cities and 50 "un-served" rural and remote locations across Canada.

The companies plan to pool their wireless broadband spectrum into a joint venture called Inukshuk Internet Inc., which is expected to strike a roaming agreement with Craig McCaw's U.S.-based wireless firm Clearwire Corp. and to continue to use fixed wireless network gear from NextNet, a Clearwire subsidiary.

Rogers presently controls and will contribute spectrum in the 2.3 GHz, 2.5 GHz and 3.5 GHz frequencies. Bell will do the same with its 2.3 GHz and 3.5 GHz holdings.

Bell Canada and Rogers will operate the network on a cost recovery basis and share equally in the ownership and control of the resulting service. Bell and Rogers will sell, market and bill the service directly to their respective customers.

The resulting wireless canopy will create "a powerful tool for Canadian businesses and consumers - both of whom will benefit from the substantially increased and accelerated competition the network will bring," said Rogers CTO Bob Berner, in a release.

In a related agreement, Bell will acquire the remaining 50 percent of NR Communications that it does not already own from companies connected to McCaw. NR and a subsidiary of Rogers are the two partners in the Inukshuk J.V. that hold 98 MHz of broadband spectrum in the 2.5 GHz range across much of Canada.

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