MONTREAL — Bell is beginning to roll out a new 5G wireless network in five cities, joining the global race to deploy the high-speed technology.
It is the second of Canada’s Big Three telecom companies to launch its plan for fifth-generation deployment.
The new service is now available for customers in Montreal, the Greater Toronto Area, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver, the company said.
Rival Rogers Communications Inc. activated its 5G network earlier this year in downtown Vancouver, Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal.
The new networks offer those with 5G-enabled smartphones faster data speeds and faster response times.
“It is the next generation of wireless technology and will have a fundamental shift in the future to how we interact in many parts of our life, whether it’s smart cities, whether it’s autonomous vehicles, whether it’s a mobile gaming experience, whether it’s virtual reality,” Bell Mobility president Claire Gillies said.
The full potential of 5G technology won’t be reached until Bell deploys higher-frequency bands called “millimetre-wave” spectrum, which requires installation of thousands of cereal box-sized “microcells” within hundreds of metres on each other on structures ranging from bus stops to billboards.
“There’s many things that will happen before we get to millimetre wave, but that’s when you get some of the ultra-fast speeds that you often hear referred to,” Gillies said.
Last week, Bell Canada announced that Sweden-based Ericsson will be its second supplier of the radio access network equipment — a major component in 5G networks — following its choice of Finland’s Nokia in February.
Telus Corp., which uses Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. equipment extensively in its current network, announced hours later that it too had selected Ericsson and Nokia for its 5G network needs.
The announcements came as Ottawa continues its review of Huawei’s role in Canada’s 5G networks over security concerns due to suspicions about the company’s relationship with China’s government.
“There’s a significant amount of uncertainty as the government has yet to make a decision on Huawei’s participation in 5G in the Canadian market,” Gillies said.
The United States has warned Canada, the United Kingdom and other allies that it will limit intelligence sharing with countries that have Huawei equipment in their 5G networks — citing its potential use for spying by China, an allegation Huawei denies.
On Thursday, Bell also announced partnership plans for a 5G research centre at Western University in London, Ont., that will include a campus-wide 5G network.
“As the world rapidly embraces the fifth generation of wireless, Bell is ready to ensure Canada remains at the forefront of 5G innovation and accessibility,” said Mirko Bibic, chief executive of Bell Canada and parent company BCE.
“The COVID-19 crisis has clearly underscored the critical importance of high-quality networks to keeping consumers, businesses and governments connected and informed, and Bell remains committed to building the best as we take wireless into the next generation.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 11, 2020.
Companies in this story: (TSX:BCE, TSX:RCI.B)
The Canadian Press