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Rogers to spend $450 million to upgrade BC's wireless network

VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) – Rogers Communications (TSX:RCI.B) will spend an additional $450 million over the next three years to upgrade its wireless communications network in British Columbia, where it’s in a tight race for market share with Telus Corp.

Toronto-based Rogers announced today that more than 70 communities in the province will get improved coverage, including an unspecified number that have been outside its coverage areas.

Phil Lind, the Executive Vice President Regulatory and Vice Chairman of Rogers Communications says two thirds of us have a smartphone and we use them about two hours a day to check our email, search online, and stream video.

“The province is growing and with this growth comes increase demand for wireless services an that’s why we’re making a significant investment in our wireless network in the province.”

The company says Fort Nelson, along Highway 5 north of Kamloops and Rogers Pass are among the areas that it will begin to serve.

Premier Christy Clark says the investment will provide better service to over 70 communities and enhance emergency services along the province’s highways.

“When those communities are growing, when employment is coming, when investment is flowing, foresighted, visionary companies like Rogers decide to come into those communities and make these kind of investments.”

Rogers also says it will enhance its current mobile network so it can carry high-speed Internet to more places, including deep inside buildings, elevators and basements where signals may not have reached previously.

To achieve the improved penetration, Rogers will use some of the 700 megahertz spectrum that it acquired in a competitive auction conducted in January by Industry Canada.

Rogers outspent its two main rivals in the 700 MHz auction, paying a total of $3.29 billion compared with $1.14 billion for Telus (TSX:T) and $565.7 million for BCE’s Bell (TSX:BCE)

Rogers has the largest base of wireless subscribers in Canada at the end of the first quarter of this year, followed by Telus Corp. (TSX:T) and BCE’s Bell (TSX:BCE), according to the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association.

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission has estimated that Rogers and Telus were roughly tied for market share in British Columbia in 2012, the latest figures available.

All three of the three biggest national carriers are upgrading parts of the networks with the 700 MHz spectrum, which helps deliver TV-quality video and fast music downloads to smartphones, tablets, laptops and other connected devices.

Telus announced in May that it would invest $2.8 billion in new infrastructure across British Columbia through 2016, but the company hasn’t disclosed how much of the total is going to its wireless network and how much to its landline networks.

Rogers is the parent company of News1130.