Canada became the latest country to launch commercial LTE service when Rogers Communications turned on its network in the national capital region on Thursday.
However, for the time being it is only available in the Ottawa area. Rogers, a cable operator, says LTE service in the country’s three biggest cities, Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal, will start at an unspecified time in the fall. Twenty-one more cities will be added next year.
Rogers picked Ottawa as its launch city in part because this is where its equipment partner, Ericsson, has a large wireless lab and is where it conducted LTE tests last fall.
“Ottawa has always had a vibrant technology sector,” Rob Bruce, president of Rogers’ communications division, which includes wireless, told reporters. “We’re proud to fuel this innovative community by providing LTE — the wireless network of tomorrow.”
For the time being, subscribers can only leverage LTE through a Sierra Wireless data stick for laptops. Bruce said handsets from Samsung and HTC will come later this year, but he couldn’t say what their form factors or capabilities will be.
Rogers is running LTE on AWS spectrum.
The Sierra Wireless modem costs $80 on a three year data plan. The flexible plans start at $45 for 1.5 Gigabytes of data a month and run up to $90 a month for 9 GB of data. The plan automatically shifts subscribers up or down levels depending on their monthly use.
Rogers said customers will see average download speeds of between 12 and 25 Mbps, depending on network congestion and spectrum used.
An industry analyst who was at the launch said businesses won’t be impressed with the pricing. With LTE’s speed and low latency approaching wireline, organizations will wonder why they should pay a premium for wireless, said Lawrence Surtees, vice-president of communications research at IDC Canada, particularly because the price per bit of wireless data should be coming down.
“There’s going to be IT managers who have both wired and wireless networks saying to Rogers, Bell and Telus ‘We’re fed up with separate contracts, separate billing [for wired and wireless]. Give us one pricing scheme, one bucket that treats a bit as a bit,'” he said.
“Whoever is first out of the gate with that is going to hit a real demand.”