Telus Corp. says it has begun work that will double the speed of its advanced wireless data network by early 2011.
The current HSPA+ technology can support theoretical speeds of around 21 megabits per second (mbps), though conditions have to be close to perfect to achieve anything close to that speed.
The new upgrades, in lab testing, allowed certain "dual cell" technology devices to reach up to 42 Mbps in perfect conditions, though the company said it expects average speeds to be around 8 Mbps - roughly double the actual, achieved speeds of current users.
The speed varies based on several factors, including the distance between a user and the cell tower and how many subscribers are using data services in that area at the time.
As new wireless players, such as Wind Mobile and Mobilicity, push in and take market share in the low end of the market, the incumbents are now battling for dominance in the more lucrative high-end of the market.
"We don't spend this much money for the sake of bragging rights," said Eros Spadotto, Telus'sexecutive vice-president of technology strategy, in an interview.
Rogers Communications Inc. has long been dominant in this space, with about twice as many smart phone customers as either BCE Inc.'s Bell Mobility or Telus. But Bell and Telus have gained a lot of territory since the two companies teamed up to launch an advanced 3G network in November, 2009.
Ronald Gruia, a telecom analyst with Frost & Sullivan in Toronto, said the network upgrade would allow Telus users to have a "4G-like" experience before the actual launch of next-generation, Long Term Evolution (LTE) 4G networks in Canada. The theoretical speeds of LTE networks range anywhere from 50 to 100 Mbps.
However, the software tweaks enabling the new speeds will not affect any current Telus user, since there are no dual cell devices currently operating on the network; and it won't be a significant factor until the technology becomes commercially available by the first fiscal quarter of 2011.
"It's a way for them to differentiate themselves," Mr. Gruia said, noting that one key advantage is simply being able to say that they have the "fastest" network currently available.
Mr. Spadotto said that, at first, only new data sticks will be able to take advantage of the technology. After about 12 to 15 months, there will be new smart phones available that can utilize the new network speeds.