5G plans under wraps in Canada, but U.S. race heats up

Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile announce 5G launch dates, while Bell, Telus and Rogers stay quiet

Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development Navdeep Bains speaks during an announcement on investments in 5G technology by the Ontario, Quebec and federal governments in Ottawa. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

U.S. wireless providers are trumpeting the virtues of their soon-to-be-unveiled 5G networks, but in Canada, the Big Three telecoms are sitting back and staying mum.

Many experts believe it’ll take years for a full rollout of the next-generation wireless technology, which promises to deliver blistering fast download speeds — some say up to 200 times faster than today’s LTE networks — and negligible lag times that will empower driverless car technology, remote-controlled surgeries and other yet-to-be-invented ideas.

U.S. telecom competitors are battling for the bragging rights of hitting the market first — even though there’s still no indication that 5G-compatible smartphones will be available before 2019.

Verizon says it will have 5G-powered residential internet access in three to five markets by the end of the year. AT&T says it will have mobile 5G networks running this year in a dozen cities. AT&T says the first wave of its 5G rollout will instead involve connecting to hotspot devices. Sprint and T-Mobile are targeting 2019 for their official 5G launches.

Meanwhile, Bell, Rogers and Telus have not made any firm commitments on when they’ll deliver 5G to customers.

Telus has perhaps been the most specific by stating in a news release last year that “5G wireless technology is expected to become commercially available beginning in 2020.”

Nauby Jacob, Bell’s vice-president of products and services, says the company isn’t ready to talk specifics but is “working towards a not-too-distant future.”

“5G is going to be here before you know it,” Jacob said. “If you think through the transition from 3G to 4G, that happened within about a five-year window. We expect with 5G when that transition happens it’ll probably happen at a faster rate. I’ve been quite surprised by how quickly things are moving.

“Having said that, it’s not here today.”

READ MORE: Canadians to get emergency alerts on their phones soon

Eric Smith, vice-president of regulatory affairs for the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association industry group, says he’s not surprised that the Canadian companies are coy about their 5G plans.

“Everybody, I think, is involved in the race, some want to get their name out there as being seen to be the leaders — but I see a lot of that more in the U.S. than in Canada,” Smith says.

All three have hinted publicly about their 5G trials and tests that will lead to a launch.

Rogers is using the Rogers Centre, home to the Toronto Blue Jays, as a 5G test laboratory to assess how networks can manage thousands of simultaneous connections. It’s also a trial of how it works in a challenging environment for wireless signals, given the stadium’s concrete structure.

Telus has a test site in Vancouver where it has been conducting 5G research since 2015 and some lucky employees have been running trials of the technology in their homes through a partnership with Chinese company Huawei, which has also been working with Bell. The partnerships involve using 5G technology for residential internet connections, which could help provide better service for underserved rural areas.

Bell’s “wireless to the home” project has been officially launched in two Ontario towns with LTE technology but will be upgradable to 5G in the future. The project is being rolled out to 20 other Ontario and Quebec communities this year.

Michael Oliveira, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Record low river levels recorded

Bulkley, Telkwa, Skeena River stations record their lowest historical levels.

VIDEO: This is what buying legal pot in B.C. looks like

Take a look inside B.C.’s first and only legal pot shop located in Kamloops

Bulkley Valley pot laws

The Interior News reached out to local municipalities to see how they’ll handle cannabis legalization

10 things still illegal in the new age of recreational cannabis

Pot is legal – but there are still a lot of rules, and breaking some could leave you in jail

‘Police are ready’ for legal pot, say Canadian chiefs

But Canadians won’t see major policing changes as pot becomes legal

Mellow opening to B.C.’s only legal pot shop

About five people lined up early for the opening of the BC Cannabis Store in Kamloops.

Manhunt in Crimea for possible accomplice in school attack

An 18-year-old student, who later killed himself, was initially believed to be the only one involved

Police hand out a few hefty fines for allegedly violating Cannabis Act

Police in Canada posted a photo of a $215 ticket given to someone who allegedly had a baggy of marijuana in their car

Great British Columbia ShakeOut earthquake drill reminder

Don’t miss the opportunity to participate in the Great ShakeOut

Jagmeet Singh says marijuana pardons are not enough

Trudeau government will streamline pardon process for Canadians convicted of simple possession of marijuana in the past

BC Ferries begins taking debit in two-month pilot project

Company is giving customers option to use Interac on two-month trial on select vessels

Caregivers banned from smoking, growing cannabis around children-in-care: MCFD

Ministry has limited cannabis use for caregivers, stating it may “pose a risk to children and youth.”

Cheaper strains sell out within minutes on online BC Cannabis Store

Province says new strains will become available in the coming months

Most Read