Rogers launches faster network for mobile Internet for laptop, netbook users

MONTREAL - Rogers Wireless (TSX:RCI.B) has launched an improved wireless data network to give laptop and netbook users a mobile Internet experience that's equivalent to being at home or in the office.

MONTREAL - Rogers Wireless (TSX:RCI.B) has launched an improved wireless data network to give laptop and netbook users a mobile Internet experience that's equivalent to being at home or in the office.

Rogers said Monday that it has rolled out the network in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal and has tripled its current download speeds.

"It enables you to do whatever activities you would normally do, but you can do them where you want, when you want them," said Bob Berner, Rogers' executive vice-president and chief technology officer.

The improved HSPA or High Speed Packet Access network will be rolled out nationally by the end of 2010.

Berner noted that if consumers are using the company's new network - which requires an upgraded modem - aren't in an area where the fastest service is provided, they will get the "best service available."

The network speed of a maximum of 21 megabits per second would give consumers the equivalent experience of being on their desktop PC, Berner said from Toronto after a demonstration of the network speed.

Rogers said speed tests of the new network showed speeds of about 15 to 16Mbps, which it says are typical download loads speeds a consumer would experience.

Rogers residential cable Internet service offers speeds ranging from 500 kilobits per second to as fast as 50 Mbps for its top service.

Technology analyst Duncan Stewart said there are 12 HSPA plus networks running globally in places such as Europe, Asia and South America.

"Rogers is not the first to do this, but they are nowhere near the last," said Stewart, director of research and analysis at Toronto-based DSAM Consulting.

However, Rogers is the first in Canada with this kind of network, he added.

"Compared to some of these other announcements which have been pretty limited this would be one of the, certainly, geographically largest launches," he said.

Berner said this faster network isn't for mobile phones at this time.

"It's really when you get into a PC-type form factor with a large screen with a large variety of software that can make use of the bandwidth that it makes a big difference," he said.

Stewart said a smartphone such as Apple's iPhone doesn't send the same volume of information as a business user who is sending and receiving such things as spread sheets and emails with large attachments on a computer.

"At some point you would have (mobile) phones use it, but your iPhone today doesn't work on this network and that's not Rogers' fault. It's because the phone is not set up for that."

Bell (TSX:BCE) said it will launch its HSPA network in early 2010 in time for the Vancouver Winter Olympics, while Telus (TSX:T) said it's still working towards its national launch of an HSPA network in also in early 2010.

Craig Wireless Systems Ltd. (TSX:CWG) said Monday it plans to build a WiMAX-enabled 4G network in Vancouver.

The company said it has hired Motorola Inc. for the project that will include base stations, wireless access controllers and an operation and maintenance centre.

Analyst Carmi Levy said Rogers is acknowledged as a technology leader.

"What Rogers is doing is getting the attention of the early adopter, high-performance crowd and is continuing to strengthen its reputation as a provider of leading-edge network connectivity services," he said.

That doesn't mean data prices will come down right away, said Levy of Toronto's AR Communications Inc.

"It allows the company to charge a premium for a perceived higher-quality service until such time that the market catches up with it," said Levy, senior vice-president of strategic consulting.

Also on Monday in Canada's wireless industry, new player Globalive Wireless accused Rogers, Bell and Telus of trying to stop increased competition in the mobile phone industry.

"Rogers, Telus and Bell have worked hard to block our entry to market and at least Rogers now seems to be trying to do the same for the other new entrants," Ken Campbell, CEO of Globalive Wireless, said in a statement.

Globalive faces a CRTC hearing about its foreign ownership and control on Sept. 23 after Telus made a request to the CRTC for a review.

Rogers has asked the federal regulator to hold a public review of the ownership and control of new mobile phone companies, DAVE Wireless and Public Mobile.

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