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Telus to invest $650-million in B.C. Add to ...

Following an identical investment in its Alberta network, Vancouver-based telecommunications giant Telus Corp. said on Tuesday that it will invest $650-million in its British Columbia infrastructure.

The company is ramping up its network to be able to handle the rollout of its high definition (HD) TV service to even more homes in Western Canada, as Telus continues to do battle with Calgary-based Shaw Communications Inc. for customers in the two companies' shared stomping grounds.

In mid-March, Telus announced a very similar $650-million investment to expand its wired and wireless broadband networks in Alberta. With the construction of its $3-billion wireless network with BCE Inc. , Telus is focusing now on expanding the service and ensuring that more communities have access to actual wired connections, as opposed to wireless.

In a release announcing the investment, Telus characterized the investment in part as a chance to extend crucial technologies such as telemedicine and electronic health records into remote, Aboriginal communities in B.C.

But the move is mainly designed to increase the roll out of Telus' HD TV service, which allows the company to more effectively "bundle" its various services - such as home phone, Internet service and TV - to compete with Shaw, which already does the same.

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Some analysts have said that Telus TV, which uses Microsoft Corp.'s Mediaroom technology as its delivery platform, has a slight advantage over Shaw's current TV offering. But others in the industry still think the telco's long-term chances against cableco Shaw, which has purchased wireless spectrum to compete with Telus in offering cellphone service, are not very good. Shaw, however, has so far been coy with its wireless plans and has not announced any plans for a launch.

Regardless of the competitive concerns, any investments in wired networks will leave Telus in better standing when it goes before the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission this coming October. The federal telecom regulator has announced a hearing that will be investigating ways to extend high speed broadband Internet service deeper into Canada's rural areas, since private companies are hesitant to invest in quality services where there are not enough people to provide a solid return on those infrastructure investments.

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