* Service in Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver Ottawa in 2011
* Will expand network to 25 Canadian markets by 2012
* Telus due to launch in early 2012 (Adds details)
By Alastair Sharp
TORONTO, April 27 (Reuters) - Rogers Communications (RCIb.TO) said on Wednesday it will launch its advanced LTE network for speeding up mobile communications this year, beating rival Telus Corp (T.TO) to the punch.
Rogers, Canada’s largest wireless provider, said it would launch the LTE, or long-term evolution, network in Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver and Ottawa, and then broaden coverage to the nation’s top 25 markets in 2012.
LTE is a so-called “next generation” technology that gives users levels of connectivity on mobile broadband similar to what is now available on home or office networks.
Vancouver-based Telus (T.TO), Canada’s second-largest phone company, has said it would launch its LTE network early next year. [ID:nN06262948]
Canada’s wireless sector is dominated by three companies with close to 95 percent market share: BCE Inc’s (BCE.TO) Bell Canada, Rogers Communications and Telus Corp.
“The world is moving to LTE and we’re thrilled to be leading the way by bringing this next generation technology to our consumer and business customers,” Rogers Chief Executive Nadir Mohamed said.
Rogers said LTE would improve on its existing HSPA+, or high-speed packet access, network by increasing speed by three to four times and delivering lower latency, vital for mutli-player gaming.
Rogers said it would initially use AWS spectrum - bought in a 2008 auction - to start the LTE build-out and then expand that to multiple bands.
It said it has selected Ericsson (ERICb.ST) to build the network.
700 MHz SPECTRUM
There is a general election in Canada on May 2 and Mohamed called on the next government to ensure established carriers’ right to bid on valuable 700 megahertz spectrum that is set to be auctioned by the government in 2012.
In the 2008 auction, the government set aside some spectrum for new entrants in a bid to bolster competition. Those new carriers — including Wind Mobile, Mobilicity and Public Mobile — want similar conditions for the upcoming auction.
The 700 MHz airwaves are being freed up as television broadcasters switch from analog to digital delivery by August 2011.
“Investing in the digital economy is critical to our competitiveness on the world stage,” Mohamed said at the company’s annual general meeting in Toronto. “Yet it will be the actions of the new government that will set the stage for Canada’s success or failure for decades to come.”
The 700 MHz frequencies are considered valuable as they can cover long distances and more easily penetrate obstacles such as thick walls and buildings. Signals can also travel greater distances than on existing spectrum, making rural deployment cheaper and improving coverage in concentrated areas. (Reporting by Alastair Sharp; writing by Pav Jordan; Editing by Frank McGurty and Peter Galloway)