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TORONTO, Sept 10 (Reuters) - Quebecor Inc said on Wednesday it activated its next-generation wireless network, part of its broader push to bridge the technological and market share gap with its more dominant telecom competitors in Québec.
The Montréal-based company said its Videotron cable television and wireless unit switched on a long-term evolution (LTE) network that covers nearly 90 percent of Québec's population. The move comes exactly four years after the company initially launched its own mobile service.
"This brings us to par to address a market segment that we could not address before," Videotron Chief Executive Manon Brouillette told Reuters in a phone interview.
Larger rivals Rogers Communications, BCE Inc and Telus Corp have offered their customers LTE service - which promises data speeds and capacity similar to that available via home or office connections - for several years.
Brouillette said customers with LTE-compatible devices, or close to 20 percent of Videotron's more than 550,000 wireless users, will need to request a new SIM card to take advantage of the upgrade.
She said telecom growth opportunities still exist for Videotron in its home province of Québec, where it has some 12 percent of a market that has fewer mobile users per capita than the national average. The company saw a bump in subscribers after it started offering Apple Inc's iPhone six months ago.
Brouillette declined, however, to discuss the company's wireless expansion plans outside of the mostly French-speaking province.
Executives have previously said they are talking to several potential partners about expansion, after buying wireless airwaves across much of Canada earlier this year.
She said her company's experience of taking on three established operators in Québec shows that four players can compete sustainably, a key goal of the federal government's telecom policy. (Additional reporting by Euan Rocha; editing by Jeffrey Hodgson, G Crosse)