Telus ponies up $2b for 5G wireless spectrum

Ottawa raises nearly $9b from latest auction

Cell tower in Metro Vancouver | Photo: Rob Kruyt, BIV

Telus Corp. (TSX:V) is solidifying its 5G network, paying the federal government $1.95 billion for spectrum licences granting the Vancouver-based telecom giant further access to the next generation of wireless services.

The newly acquired 3500 MHz spectrum licences — MHz being a measure of frequency —  cover markets in B.C., Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec. 

It’s considered to be a key band that offers a mix of speed and capacity due to its wide channels, and can also travel far distances while passing through solid structures.

“The 3500 MHz auction is a key step in our government’s plan to promote competition in the telecom sector, improve rural connectivity, and ensure Canadians benefit from 5G technologies and services,” François-Philippe Champagne said in a Thursday statement after the results of the latest licence auction were announced.

The federal government raised a total of $8.91 billion, with Telus and other major telecom providers such as Rogers Communications Inc. (TSX:RCI) and [BCE Inc. (TSX:BCE)] leading the auction by securing hundreds of licences. 

Following the auction results, Telus CEO Darren Entwistle took aim at Ottawa’s regulatory policy surrounding 5G.

“Canada’s position as a global leader in broadband networks is vulnerable to burdensome regulations governing access to spectrum,” he said in a statement. 

“We need responsible, forward looking and predictable regulatory policy that ensures affordable, fair and expeditious access to this national asset so we can continue building our world-leading networks.”

Telus’ initial 5G rollout in June 2020 trailed Rogers by five months and Bell by one week.

Telus had long been aligned with Huawei on its 5G ambitions, but Telus and Bell eventually left the Chinese company in the dust in June 2020 when they announced they were tapping European vendors Telefonaktiebolaget LM Ericsson (Nasdaq:ERIC) and Nokia Corp. (HEL:NOKIA) to build out their 5G networks.

Telus is also tapping Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. to help deploy its 5G products.