Telus earmarks $17.5B for B.C. with 5G ramp-up in sight

New spending will create 5,500 jobs, according to Vancouver telecom giant

Telus will begin rolling out 3500 MHz spectrum later this year | Rob Kruyt, BIV

Telus Corp. (TSX:T) is drawing a bead on its home province with plans to spend $17.5 billion on filling out its network infrastructure over the next four years.

The Vancouver-based telecom giant said Tuesday the spending would create 5,500 jobs on the West Coast between now and 2026.

After ponying up $1.95 billion for 5G spectrum licences last year, the rollout of that particular infrastructure is set to begin later this year.

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.

Telus’ initial 5G rollout in June 2020 trailed Rogers Communications Inc. (TSX:RCI) by five months and Bell [BCE Inc. (TSX:BCE)] by one week.

Telus had long been aligned with Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. 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.

Huawei’s equipment has long been banned by Canada’s intelligence allies over espionage concerns but Ottawa has yet to make a decision about outright banning it.

The $17.5 billion in spending will also go to rebuilding internet network infrastructure in Merritt and Lytton, which were ravaged last year by B.C.’s unprecedented flooding and devastating wildfires, respectively.

The spending allocated to the West Coast is part of $70 billion earmarked overall for Canada over the next four years.