TORONTO - Rogers Communications Inc. (TSX:RCI.B) says it's strengthening its wireless mobile coverage in northern Ontario by partnering with a regional provider based in Thunder Bay, Ont.

The Toronto-based telecom giant says it's partnering with TBayTel, using the independent company's HSPA network to provide a wider variety of services to an underserviced region of the province.

Rogers says the expanded service area stretches from the Manitoba border to just west of Sault Ste. Marie and covers an area of nearly 300,000 square kilometres.

Both Rogers and TBayTel customers will be able to provide third-generation download speeds in the area - a key feature for people surfing the web, using email or downloading music or video files.

TBayTel users will be able to bundle their current packages with Rogers services.

The deal marks Roger's latest efforts to pull ahead of a widening field of competetors, which now includes small startup companies along with long-time rivals Bell and Telus.

The service expansion is expected to take effect later this year.

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