Bell Canada expects to start the construction of its 5G network this year, using equipment from Finnish vendor Nokia, the company’s CEO Mirko Bibic said during a conference call with investors.
“Nokia will be the first provider of 5G RAN equipment in our network. And I stress the word, first. What I’m trying to signal here is that we need to be able to work with many equipment suppliers today and in the future. And today that includes Nokia, it includes Huawei, it includes Ericsson, it includes Cisco. It is always prudent to have multiple supply sources and we are always looking for that flexibility,” Bibic said.
Bell confirmed it is ready to deliver initial 5G services in urban areas across Canada as soon as next generation smartphones become commercially available.
The executive said that Bell will continue to enhance 5G access speeds, capacity and coverage as additional 5G wireless spectrum, including in the 3.5 GHz band, becomes available this year through the federal government’s spectrum auction process.
Bibic said that the award of that spectrum will allow local telcos to launch real 5G technology in 2021.
“These next-generation networks will be the launch pad to drive market share and revenue growth with new innovative, integrated services including IoT, smart home products as well as business solutions like virtual network services, all delivered over the fastest Internet, the best Wi-Fi, and the highest quality mobile networks,” he added.
The executive said that Bell is still waiting for the Canadian government’s decision on the security review of 5G networks. Officials had received pressure from the U.S. government to ban Chinese carrier Huawei from the deployment of 5G networks in the country, over security allegations.
Bell reported a net profit of CAD723 million ($543.6 million) in Q4 2019, up 12.6% year-on-year, and revenue of CAD6.3 billion, up 1.6%.
Wireless revenue climbed 3.6% to CAD2.5 billion, driven primarily by service sales which increased 1.6% to CAD1.6 billion.
For full 2019, Bell posted a net profit of CAD3.25 billion, up 9.4% versus the previous year, and revenue of CAD23.96 billion, up 2.1% year-on-year.
During the last quarter of the year, Bell recorded a net addition of 181,000 new wireless, Internet and IPTV subscribers. During 2019, the telco added 743,000 new subscribers, a 5% increase over 2018.
Rival operator Rogers Communications has recently begun rolling out 5G network in select cities around Canada using equipment from Swedish vendor Ericsson.
Rogers’ initial 5G cities are Vancouver, Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal. The telco said that it will eventually expand into over 20 more markets by the end of 2020.
In a recent conference call with investors Rogers’ CEO Joe Natale said that the company expects to start deploying spectrum sharing technology later this year. The executive said that the deployment of this technology will allow Rogers to use its current 4G spectrum for the provision of 5G.
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