Rogers deploys first wave of premium 5G spectrum starting in B.C.

Nanaimo will be first city in Canada to tap 3500 MHz 5G spectrum from telecom giant

A cell tower in B.C. | Rob Kruyt, BIV file photo

The first wave of premium 5G spectrum from Rogers Communications Inc. (TSX:RCI) is set to blanket parts of B.C. ahead of other provinces.

The Toronto-based telecom giant has revealed it began rolling out 3500 MHz spectrum — MHz being a measure of frequency — in Nanaimo on Wednesday.

The 3500 MHz spectrum is 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.

Rogers was the first telecom company to begin rolling out the initial wave of 5G offerings in B.C., launching first in Vancouver in January 2020.

Bell [BCE Inc. (TSX:BCE)] followed suit in June of that year and Vancouver-based Telus Corp. (TSX:T) did so one week after Bell.

Telus announced last month it was earmarking $17.5 billion towards filling out its own network infrastructure in its home province over the next four years, including more internet and 5G coverage.

It has previously said it would begin deploying its own 3500 MHz 5G holdings, which it paid $1.95 billion to Ottawa to acquire in 2021, later this year.

So far 5G deployment has moved in fits and starts in Canada due to significant uncertainty about access to equipment.

Only last month did the federal government ban China’s Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. and ZTE Corp. technology from the country’s 5G networks. 

Canada’s closest intelligence allies – the U.S., U.K., Australia and New Zealand of the “Five Eyes” alliance – had previously banned the equipment over espionage concerns.

But Canada had been proceeding with a long-running security evaluation before making a decision, leaving its own domestic telecom companies unsure about whether it would be able to tap the Chinese equipment.

Now, any companies that had deployed 5G equipment manufactured by Huawei or ZTE are required to remove it at their own expense.

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 and Nokia Corp. to build out their 5G networks.

Telus is also currently deploying equipment from Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. to support its 5G network.

torton@biv.com

@reporton