Customers of BCE Inc.’s BCE-T Bell Canada will be able to talk, text and use their mobile data in certain areas of the Toronto subway system “in the coming weeks,” the telecom said Tuesday.
Earlier this month, federal Industry Minister François-Philippe Champagne forced Rogers Communications Inc. RCI-B-T to give Bell and Telus Corp. T-T access to the Rogers-owned wireless network in the subway tunnels so that they can provide service to their own customers.
Ellen Murphy, a spokesperson for Bell, said the company expects that its customers will have service by the Oct. 3 deadline set by Mr. Champagne. Richard Gilhooley, a spokesperson for Telus, said in a statement late Tuesday that the company is “working around the clock” to launch service by that date. Mr. Champagne has said that the telecoms could face fines or other penalties if they fail to meet the deadline.
Customers of Rogers and Quebecor Inc.’s QBR-B-T Freedom Mobile already have cellular service on the subway, and all riders are able to make emergency 911 calls.
Rogers and its two main competitors – BCE and Telus – have been involved in a months-long dispute that began when Rogers announced in April that it was acquiring BAI Canada Inc., the Canadian branch of an Australian telecommunications infrastructure company with the sole right to develop wireless infrastructure inside the subway system.
After the acquisition, the companies were unable to reach an agreement over access to the Rogers-owned network, with both sides accusing the other of delaying negotiations.
Mr. Champagne is also requiring that all wireless carriers offering service in Toronto have commercial agreements in place with Rogers to provide service on the subway within the next 100 days, and that cellular coverage be available throughout the entire subway system within three years. (Currently, only portions of the transit system has coverage, although Rogers has committed to expanding the network.)
The requirements are being imposed through new conditions on the telecoms’ wireless licences. Mr. Champagne’s department issues licences for spectrum – the airwaves used to transmit wireless services – and therefore has the ability to impose and amend the conditions attached to them.