Telus follows Rogers with roll-out of premium 5G spectrum in B.C.

Competitor Rogers previously revealed B.C. would be first province to tap its 3500 MHz 5G spectrum holdings

Victoria among first five cities to tap premium 5G offerings from Telus | AlbertPego, Getty Images

It looks like Vancouver Island residents will be a step ahead of their fellow British Columbians accessing premium 5G spectrum.

Telus Corp. (TSX:T) revealed Friday it’s begun rolling out its 3500 MHz spectrum holdings — MHz being a measure of frequency — in Victoria.

This comes two days after competitor Rogers Communications Inc. (TSX:RCI) announced Nanaimo would be the first city in Canada to be able to tap its 3500 MHz spectrum 5G offerings.

Bell [BCE Inc. (TSX:BCE)] said Thursday it’s “poised” to deploy its own 3500 MHz 5G holdings but did not offer a specific date as to when that would begin.

The 3500 MHz frequency 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.

Telus paid the federal government $1.95 billion last year to acquire licences for this spectrum to cover markets in B.C., Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec.

Ottawa raised a total of $8.91 billion during last year's auction, which Rogers and Bell also participated in.

In addition to Victoria, Telus is also beginning its 3500 MHz roll-out in Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa and Edmonton.

The Vancouver-based telecom giant said this it roll-out would continue across Canada through the rest of the year and into 2023.

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 Canada’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.

Rogers had long avoided working with Huawei for its 5G roll-out efforts and Rogers vice-chairman Philip Lind told BNN Bloomberg in 2020 that Huawei posed a threat to Canada and should be banned from the country’s 5G network.

—­With a file from Jeremy Hainsworth