Videotron strikes roaming agreement with Rogers for national wireless service

MONTREAL - Cable TV operator Videotron, which is setting up a wireless phone network in Quebec, has negotiated a deal with Rogers Communications Inc. (TSX:RCI.B) that will allow Videotron customers to roam on the Rogers network in Canada.

MONTREAL - Cable TV operator Videotron, which is setting up a wireless phone network in Quebec, has negotiated a deal with Rogers Communications Inc. (TSX:RCI.B) that will allow Videotron customers to roam on the Rogers network in Canada.

The deal means that future Videotron wireless customers outside the Quebec company's coverage area will have access to a national wireless network, allowing them to make calls from anywhere in Canada.

Videotron also announced a tower sharing arrangements for certain cellular sites in Quebec and the Ottawa region with Toronto-based Rogers.

Financial terms of both deals were not revealed.

"This is great news for our customers and for us," said Robert Depatie, president and CEO of Videotron, a unit of Quebecor Media.

"This agreement is also a benefit for the population because it limits the need to build additional towers."

Videotron and Quebecor Media have said they plan to invest $800 million to $1 billion over the next four years to develop their own wireless network.

Videotron is Quebec's largest cable TV company and also provides Internet and cable telephone and wireless services.

Quebecor Media is part of Quebecor Inc. (TSX:QBR.B) and also owns the TVA television network in Quebec, the Sun Media chain of newspapers and other media properties.

Telecom analyst Iain Grant said he expects other roaming agreements to be announced between new wireless players and the three established players - Rogers, Telus (TSX:T) and Bell (TSX:BCE).

Grant said DAVE Wireless could be the next new wireless player to announcement a network sharing agreement and could favour an agreement with Rogers.

DAVE Wireless has said it plans to be up and running in early 2010, providing coverage in Toronto and the most populous areas of Ontario and in such cities as Vancouver, Victoria, Calgary, Edmonton and Red Deer, Alta.

Rogers has a 3G GSM network which is the dominant global standard and Grant said it was the logical choice for Videotron, which is expected to launch its own network in mid-2010.

"This was a box that had to be checked off and it probably has been checked off a littler earlier than I would have expected," said Grant of the SeaBord Group, a technology research and consulting firm.

Canada's cellphone industry will have more competition in the coming months as new players enter the field.

New players such as Videotron, Globalive Wireless, Public Mobile and DAVE Wireless are planning to build their own wireless networks but are negotiating roaming agreements with the three established players.

 
 
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