Bell Canada has decided to put on hold the commercial launch of its 5G network due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the company’s CEO Mirko Bibic said during a conference call with investors.
“We are ready with our initial 5G network, but frankly we don’t think that it’s the right time right now to officially launch it for marketing purposes. I just don’t think that customers are paying attention to this right now and that’s not what is top of mind for our customer base. They have other priorities, understandably,” Bibic said.
“As the economy opens up, we’ll have more news on when we will launch our initial 5G services,” he added.
Bell Canada started the construction of its 5G network this year, using equipment from Finnish vendor Nokia.
The executive said that Bell is still waiting for the Canadian government’s decision on the security review of 5G networks. Officials had received pressure from the U.S. government to ban Chinese carrier Huawei from the deployment of 5G networks in the country, over security allegations.
“We waiting for the government’s decision and we will follow all government rules with respect to usage of equipment in our 5G network and as you know, we work with multiple suppliers in our supply chain,” he said.
Bibic has previously said that Bell will continue to enhance 5G access speeds, capacity and coverage as additional 5G wireless spectrum, including in the 3.5 GHz band, becomes available this year through the federal government’s spectrum auction process. Bibic said that the award of that spectrum will allow Canadian carriers to launch more 5G technology in 2021.
Bell reported a net profit of CAD733 million ($526 million) in Q1 2020, down 7. 3% year-on-year, and revenue of CAD5. 68 billion, down 0.9%.
Wireless revenue declined 2.2% to CAD2.03 billion, due to lower product revenue, which was offset partly by higher year-over-year service revenue
During the first quarter of the year, Bell recorded a net addition of 19,595 wireless customers,22,595 broadband customers and 2,852 IPTV customers.
Rival operator Rogers Communications had already begun rolling out 5G network in select cities around Canada using equipment from Swedish vendor Ericsson.
Rogers’ initial 5G cities are Vancouver, Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal. The telco said that it will eventually expand into over 20 more markets by the end of 2020.
In a previous conference call with investors Rogers’ CEO Joe Natale said that the company expects to start deploying spectrum sharing technology later this year. The executive said that the deployment of this technology will allow Rogers to use its current 4G spectrum for the provision of 5G.
Meanwhile, mobile operator Telus will launch a 5G network in Canada later this year using equipment from Chinese vendor Huawei Technologies, Telus’ CFO Doug French previously said in an interview with the Financial Post.
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