There is no doubt the global economy depends on an increasingly robust broadband network, and George Cope, the CEO of Bell Canada, said his company is fully committed to making its Canadian network one of the fastest in the world.
In a speech to the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday, Cope said Bell will spend $4 billion this year and $20 billion over the next five years on enhancing Bell’s wireless network and upgrading its broadband network by building fibre to the homes and businesses across the country.
He said that is what is needed to provide the capacity for the massive growth in Internet usage — about 442 per cent over the past four years.
Of that $20 billion over five years, $1 billion is going to be spent in Manitoba as part of the commitment made in Bell’s $3.9-billion acquisition of MTS that was finalized in March.
He said about 90 per cent of the work to upgrade the wireless LTE network in Manitoba to LTE-Advanced will be completed by the end of this year, which will double the speed of wireless downloads. A further enhancement to the network — called carrier aggregation technology — will be completed by the end of 2018, creating even faster speeds.
“It’s a broadband economy,” Cope said. “We are the largest broadband provider in the country by a significant margin. We want to grow our market share and are prepared to make the investments required.”
Cope could not put a date on the schedule for construction of the fibre-to-the home that is planned for Manitoba, but he was definitive that it would happen. Its first major upgrade, in Innovation Alley in the west Exchange District, is scheduled to go live in the next couple of days.
“We have to come back and work with municipalities to put together the capital project,” he said of the rest of the fibre-to-the home project. “There will be more to come in the coming months. It is going to happen.”
Its purchase of MTS took more than eight months to clear all the regulatory hurdles and required the company to sell off about 100,000 wireless subscribers to Telus and another 25,000 to Xplornet.
Cope said Bell’s major investment in the Manitoba market will lead to additional investments by its competitors. Telus has already made it clear it intends to make “significant technology investments in Manitoba.”
In his first public appearance since the MTS acquisition, Cope announced the name change of the MTS Centre to Bell MTS Place, and a $500,000 contribution to the University of Mantioba’s capital campaign to fund a project to develop Internet of Things applications in agriculture and food services.
Dan McKeen, now the senior executive at Bell MTS, said the transition from MTS to Bell ownership has gone better than was anticipated.
“We expected some negative reaction, but the business community in Manitoba has been very welcoming,” he said. “People are saying they knew something needed to change and that more investment was needed, and having Bell MTS probably makes it more likely for that (to) happen than might have been the case with MTS.”