Bell, Rogers, Telus spar over provision of wireless coverage in the TTC subway

Bell and Telus are accusing Rogers of stonewalling and refusing to negotiate access to the infrastructure that would allow them to provide wireless coverage in the Toronto Transit Commission’s (TTC) subway.

In April, Rogers acquired BAI Communications’ Canadian operations (BAI Canada), which built the TTC wireless network. Consequently, rival carriers need to negotiate terms of access with Rogers regarding antenna site sharing as well as to ensure that the wireless infrastructure that Rogers designs and builds can support all providers and their customers.

The carriers submitted their comments to a consultation initiated by Innovation Minister François-Philippe Champagne last month, which was intended to help telcos work out agreements so that they can deploy service in a timely manner.

Telus argues that Rogers is deliberately delaying negotiations to give itself a head start in deploying wireless services for its own customers within the TTC subway, especially during the most lucrative sales season of September to December with events like back-to-school, Black Friday, Christmas and Boxing Day coming up.

Public safety issues on the TTC, a grave concern for Torontonians over the past two years, will persist if Rogers prolongs negotiations and denies competitor access to provide mobile services, Telus said in a submission to Innovation, Science and Economic Development (ISED).

Bell, on the other hand, argued that Rogers is looking to launch service for its own customers before ISED can issue a decision to this consultation and hence undermine new conditions of license, like ones that would force Rogers to support the provision of wireless services for all Canadians before it can provide wireless service exclusively to its customers.

Bell added, “The only instances in which Rogers has made any minimal efforts to advance any commercial negotiations has been under the immediate threat of regulatory intervention. In every instance, it has subsequently withdrew these actions as soon as the threat has passed.”

As a result, Bell is requesting that ISED preclude Rogers from providing service to its customers on the TTC until all carriers can also do so.

Rogers has expressed reservations about ISED’s proposed Conditions of License, arguing that they “fail to account for the difficult reality of constructing a wireless network in the country’s busiest subway network.” Onboarding other carriers, the company noted, will further delay deployment, as it would leave its rivals at least four weeks behind on installing and testing their equipment on the TTC.

The company also says that ISED  must be careful to ensure any new Condition of License prioritizes the interests of Canadian consumers over the commercial interests of certain carriers, and strongly warned against Bell’s request, which it says will also delay wireless coverage on the TTC.

It denied the accusations of Bell and Telus and said that it, in fact, “invited good faith negotiations with other carriers from the outset.” 

The company further affirmed that only Québecor-owned Vidéotron, which also bashed Bell’s request in its submission to ISED, has accepted a framework for negotiating access to the TTC wireless network.

“Bell and Telus showed no real interest in providing wireless services in the TTC or raised any public safety concerns about the limited connectivity in the subway system until Rogers stepped up to commit to upgrading and expanding the wireless network in the TTC,” Rogers said, adding that the two rival telcos only took an interest when it acquired BAI.

Replies to the comments from this phase of the consultation are allowed until Aug. 28.

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Ashee Pamma
Ashee Pamma
Ashee is a writer for ITWC. She completed her degree in Communication and Media Studies at Carleton University in Ottawa. She hopes to become a columnist after further studies in Journalism. You can email her at [email protected]

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