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Bell, Telus provide new iPhone competition in Canada

CDMA iPhone

Prince McLean, AppleInsider

Rogers Wireless, Apple’s exclusive iPhone partner in Canada, is gaining new competition from its formerly CDMA-only rivals in a move that could foreshadow changes in the US market affecting AT&T and Verizon.

Bell, Telus provide new iPhone competition in Canada


Apple originally launched the iPhone 3G in Canada exclusive to Rogers and its Fido subsidiary because the company was the only GSM/UMTS provider in the country. As with the US, Canada’s mobile service providers are split between GSM and CDMA service, with Rogers/Fido playing the part of AT&T while the other two major providers, Bell and Telus, sell CDMA/EVDO service like Sprint and Verizon Wireless.

However, Bell and Telus are now rolling out a new HSPA (high speed packet access) 3G overlay that will enable both providers to sell the iPhone. HSPA is included in the 3GPP UMTS standard. Both Bell and Telus are adopting the new overlay as in interim step towards new LTE networks planned for deployment beginning sometime in 2011. Neither company will supply GSM/EDGE 2G service.

Bell is already listed by Apple as an iPhone mobile partner; Telus’ new HSPA service is set to launch tomorrow. The new competition will provide an alternative to Roger’s exclusive lock on the iPhone, which has been criticized for its unusually high prices and poor service.

CDMA/EVDO Migration to 3GPP

The move follows a global trend away from Qualcomm CDMA/EVDO networks. Last year, Australia’s Telstra shut down its CDMA network in favor of exclusive UMTS service. Other providers, like China Unicom and Canada’s Bell and Telus, have added UMTS service to their existing CDMA networks and plan continue to operate both until next generation LTE becomes a reality.

As other providers made similar moves toward 3GPP standards (which include UMTS/HSPA and LTE), Qualcomm decided to drop its efforts to introduce its own “Ultra Mobile Broadband” competitor and join the 3GPP in supporting LTE. That has left the remaining CDMA operators to decide between incrementally adding support for UMTS/HSPA or jumping directly to LTE.

CDMA iPhone

In the US, Verizon has announced plans to begin deploying LTE beginning next year in addition to operating its existing CDMA/EVOD network, while Sprint is backing the unique WiMAX for its next generation data network.

After a series of carrier-exclusive iPhone introductions in most countries worldwide, Apple has demonstrated a desire to make its phone as broadly available on as many partners as possible; subscribers in Australia and Canada now have four or five options, thanks to carrier defections from CDMA.

As mobile providers all make the transition to today’s UMTS/HSPA and tomorrow’s LTE, Apple’s ability to sell a single iPhone model globally will continue to expand.

The company’s existing contract to exclusively sell the iPhone in the US with AT&T ends next year, opening the possibility of a new iPhone 3G/LTE model capable of working both on today’s GSM/UMTS existing providers as well as CDMA providers now making the shift to LTE, such as Verizon in the US.

  • prc-citizen

    Competition in Canada… I don’t think so. For competition to exist there needs to be an open market, which in Canada there is not. There is a tightly regulated heavily lobbied bureaucracy called the CRTC. There are basically 2 wireless networks, Rogers and Bell. When there was a glimmer of competition, offered up by a Montreal based company called Microcell, Rogers decided it would have none of that and swallowed them up. Rogers and Bell do not really compete, they both offer the same basic services for basically the same price, which is as much as possible. iPhone or not, carriers have no incentive to offer anything close to packages offered in the US. AT&T offers an all you can eat plan for around $100.00. Some basic plans are cheap enough, but if you want anything like data, or if you use your phone during the daytime hours you should expect to pay between $150 and $200 per month. The other thing in Canada are the long distance fees, cities 40 miles apart are considered long distance for which you will pay .25 / min which is insane. Basically if you actually use your phone in Canada, you will pay at least double what you pay in the US and as for a remedy, sadly I don’t think there is an app for that…

  • Brau

    Apple’s motivation may be more about gaining exposure and retail outlets while the iPhone is HOT, than a move away from a single provider. Unlike in the States, there are precious few Apple stores here, and the only way to view an iPhone has been to visit a Roger’s store. Cellphone stores are not places people tend to “browse”.

    @prc-citizen: You’re right, and thanks to our CRTC nobody can operate a competing business unless it’s technically different, meaning we get the choice of ONE cable company, or ONE satellite company, or ONE DSL provider. It all means they pretty much have you by the throat and can charge whatever they like.

  • enzos

    In Australia, the iPhone rulez OK!
    and you can get them unlocked.. though customer satisfaction with carriers service is poor.
    But I live mostly in Fiji where Vodafone is all prepay and the bloody 3Gs (not even 3GS) cost an arm and a leg! Though if their was a few more WiFI hotspots the iPod touch could fill in.

  • http://www.adviespraktijk.info Berend Schotanus

    I’m very happy to see the market is moving towards more freedom :-)

  • gus2000

    Want freedom? Then what we REALLY need is reverse-tethering.

    That’s right, a cable that will let me tether my iPod Touch to a crappy $1 feature phone. All the benefits of the iPhone, using anybody’s network! And it will only look slightly dorky!

  • JohnWatkins

    While I can’t comment on Canada’s telecom system (other than to say that it appears to have problems,) I would urge you not to confuse a competitive market with one that is not regulated. Non-regulation has been the fashion for many years now, (and it’s been especially embraced in the last ten years or so by the ignorant and those who would abuse the marketplace.)
    Didn’t you notice the recent financial meltdown? That’s what so-called “free and competitive” (unregulated) markets lead to.
    A real free, fair, open, and competitive market needs to be transparent and cannot exist without rules and regulation. Could you imagine a football game without rules or referees? Might work without referees for a neighborhood pick-up game, but it leads to chaos and catastrophe in the marketplace.

  • JohnWatkins

    “Want freedom? Then what we REALLY need is reverse-tethering.”
    Yep, gus2000, I’m all for the telcos becoming “orifices.”
    The common carrier (dumb pipe) concept is another victim of “deregulation” zeal.

  • davidosus

    Does Apple dictate the cost of a carrier’s plans?

    A Telus representative claims this to be the case.

    I was told that were I to purchase an iPhone I would have to leave my current plan and accept a specific plan tailored for Apple’s phone. All my loyalty perks and features would be lost, resulting in a monthly bill several hundred dollars higher.

    I find the rep’s claim difficult to believe. One only has to compare AT&T’s iPhone rate plans to those offered by Telus.

  • prc-citizen

    Dear John(Watkins)

    You misunderstand what I said…

    I am not saying that there should be NO regulation, there should be less inhibitive regulation for service providers that want to enter the market. In Canada the regulatory agencies stifle competition by making the entry into a market so undesirable that by default the incumbents are free to own the market. This creates a psudo monopolistic environment, something that regulation should prevent.

    The recent financial meltdown was not a result of free markets, it was a result of idiotic regulation, inept regulators, political agendas and greed.

    Your analogy referring to rules and referees in the same breath is a little misleading. They are two separate things. Rules are set by regulators, where in a system working properly, are set to serve the interests of society. The referees, or enforcement branches of government are responsible for enforcing the rules set out by the regulators. I agree both are necessary.

    My point with Canada’s wireless market is that the regulators appear to be setting rules that benefit the service providers with little regard for what would benefit the public. In the US when companies that control a large portion of any market what to acquire a competitor, regulators decide if the sale should proceed based on the impact such an acquisition will have in the marketplace.

    When Rogers bought Microcell, which they did when Microcell (Fido) rolled out unlimited calling plans in metropolitan areas, there was not a peep from the Canadian government.

    Getting back to the topic of the article, if T Mobile and Verizon were able to sell iPhones it would level the playing field and diminish AT&T’s iPhone advantage, thus forcing AT&T to address its less than stellar network, as well as forcing providers to compete on price.

    The same is not true in Canada, if you compare what wireless service from Rogers and Bell costs, the market penetration comparative to other countries, I can come to no other conclusion, the wireless market in Canada is not competitive, period. The iPhone will not change this.

  • hi.wreck

    Bell (and Telus since the two of them are joined at the hip) had to roll out a 3G network. With the 2010 Olympics being in Vancouver, and Bell being a corporate sponsor, it would have been somewhat embarrassing to have all the foreign visitors roaming on Rogers. Now one wonders if they’ve got any roaming agreements set up. As it is, Bell and Telus don’t have 2G GSM, so all of the dumb phones will be roaming on Rogers as it is.

  • http://blog.cytv.com cy_starkman

    Ahhh hmmm, few points re Australia from a local

    – Australia never had a one carrier deal
    – The 3G launched on Telstra, Vodaphone and Optus, only 3 (hutchison) didn’t

    – The 3GS launched (due to a merger) on all 4 carriers

    – With the 3GS launch the iPhone is now also available unlocked and outright from Apple’s Australian store

    – Telstra’s CDMA shut down had nothing to do with iPhone availability and the network shut down was delayed a year due to regional/remote concerns about coverage blackspots and the then current 3G phones not having strong antennas. At the time of the shut down there was 1 national 3G network and 3 metro only 3G networks.

    – Optus and Vodaphone are now gunning to complete national (read: smaller towns) networks to 98% population by mid ’10. 3’s is being rolled into Vodaphone’s

    – The only issue is that Telstra is the only one using 850mhz for regional/remote, the other 2 networks went 900mhz meaning iPhones only work on Telstra outside larger towns and metro zones.

    – The 3G (3.6mbit) launched when Telstra already had rolled out national 7.2mbit

    – 3GS (7.2mbit) launched with Telstra at 21mbit and the others having a mix of 7.2 and 21. From a usage perspective you can be camping in the bush (range about 30-40k from a tower depending on terrain) watching streaming video

    – the iPhone can be had outright, prepaid and plan. Subsidized and not. The carrier offerings are from equal though. Telstra is worst but has best network. The others are very competitive but lack the all powerful everywhere network.

    – visual voicemail on the other hand has had a rough time with only Vodaphone supporting it recently.

  • JohnWatkins

    Indeed I may have misunderstood your original post. As I said, I know little about the telco situation in Canada. I was referring specifically to this sentence,
    “There is a tightly regulated heavily lobbied bureaucracy called the CRTC.”
    (Why do you say that the CRTC is tightly regulated? Isn’t it the regulating body?) In any case, lumping together “tightly regulated,” with “heavily lobbied,” and “bureaucracy” might imply that you favor “deregulation” in the “let the businesses run themselves” sense of the word, when what you really need is proper regulation and transparency.
    As you said “[regulation] in a system working properly, [is meant] to serve the interests of society.” That is my point — Regulation is not bad, it is essential.
    Maybe in Canada rules and regulations (and regulators and enforcers) are well separated, but that’s not the case in the US. Most regulators are agencies that are under the direct control of the Executive which is the ultimate enforcement body (I think this is also the case for your CRTC.) Rules and enforcement often originate from the same agency (with input from congress and the Executive.) Most disputes are handled without involving the justice department (also under the Executive) or other law enforcement. The whole point is to protect the common good, ease commerce, and avoid expensive and time consuming involvement of larger, slower moving, more expensive bodies and encourage compliance without draconian interference (it doesn’t always work that way, but there you go.)
    I suspect we both agree that lobbying organizations are one of the greatest subverters of regulation efforts and public good.

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  • Norma

    In fact Unicom of China has a GSM network before venturing into CDMA service, and it still provides GSM service.
    I think China’s Unicom has dropped its CDMA network (transferred to another telecom co.) to concentrate its development/roll out of 3G W-CDMA.