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Bell Mobility's Wade Oosterman

BCE Inc. is doubling the speed of the Bell Mobility wireless network, part of a push by large Canadian carriers to distinguish the quality of their advanced networks in an era of increasing competition.

On Nov. 23, Bell will begin offering a new wireless data stick, which lets users connect their laptops to the company's wireless Internet network. It will charge a $10 premium for the service above the network's normal monthly fee.

"This just pushes the frontier forward a little bit. It's great for Canada," Bell Mobility president Wade Oosterman said in an interview on Thursday.

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The service will be introduced in Toronto next week, a company spokesperson said, with staggered launches planned for the rest of the country. For now, the new speed will be accessible only by using the new data stick and no current devices - either smart phones or older data sticks - will be able to take advantage of the upgrade.

Bell's wireless network currently has maximum theoretical speed of 21 megabits per second (Mbps), which will double to 42 Mbps when the change is implemented. (Actual speeds are far lower, about 3.5 to eight Mbps for the current network, and about seven to 14 Mbps with the new technology).

Telus Corp., with which Bell shares its national wireless network, said in August that it would begin to offer a similar service in early 2011. At the time, Telus stressed that the "ecosystem" for wireless smart phones and other devices that can use the doubled speed (achieved through what is known as dual-cell technology) remains small.

Rogers Communications Inc. has also begun field trials of new long-term evolution (LTE) networks. These are known as fourth-generation, or 4G, networks, which are faster than the third-generation networks currently in use. Bell and Telus are also conducting 4G trials, but moving to dual-cell technology allows what some analysts call "4G-like" speeds on existing networks.

As new wireless players such as Wind Mobile and Mobilicity have pushed into the Canadian market, larger players such as Bell and Rogers have stressed the superiority and breadth of their networks. Among the three largest providers, wireless network speed and quality is roughly the same, leading to various court challenges over marketing claims touting the "best" or "most reliable" network.





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