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Telus mulling shift to GSM, iPhone a factor?

updated 09:35 am EST, Mon January 14, 2008

Telus May Shift to GSM

Major Canadian cell carrier Telus is considering a largely unprecedented jump from a CDMA-based phone network to GSM, according to a report by the Toronto Star. Alleged industry contacts say the company has discussed the idea at board meetings and has been willing to explore the costs of rebuilding its network after recognizing that an upcoming frequency auction could tip the balance against the CDMA format. No move is certain, the purported sources say, but the ubiquitousness of GSM on international networks would help Telus' business by adding subscribers who need GSM phones to roam in Europe and most other countries.

Bell Canada has also reportedly contemplated the idea of using GSM but is too concentrated on taking its company private, the tip adds.

A swap would dramatically reorient the Canadian cellular market. While the American cellular market is split more evenly between GSM (AT&T and T-Mobile) and CDMA (Sprint and Verizon), only Rogers Wireless and its sub-label Fido maintain a national GSM network in the more northern country. Telus offering GSM service would end Rogers' effective monopoly of the standard in Canada and would also isolate Bell, leaving it as the only major CDMA provider.

Nonetheless, the real advantage may be in devices, both analysts and the company itself say. As roughly 80 percent of world phone users rely on GSM, more equipment is available for the network standard and often arrives sooner as well as at a lower price than equivalent CDMA models. There are "certain advantages" to a cellphone provider to explore this route, Telus chief Darren Entwistle said recently during a quarterly results call.

The iPhone in particular is considered a major blow to CDMA operators such as Telus, as the device has so far only been announced for GSM networks. Without an alternative, Apple's handset in its current form would be virtually required to support Rogers' network. Leaks through a Molson contest and other sources have pointed to an announcement of the iPhone for Rogers as early as the next few months and is expected to provide the lone GSM carrier with a significant edge in the market.

By Electronista Staff
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  1. aristotles

    Grizzled Veteran

    Joined: Jul 2004


    I hope they do

    I'm currently a Rogers customer and I need to have a phone that works in other countries outside of North America so the only choice for me is GSM. Canada is in desperate need of competition in the GSM arena. Please Telus, break the Rogers monopoly. Please Bell, do the same. Please Virgin, do the same also. CDMA is a dead technology.

  1. climacs

    Mac Enthusiast

    Joined: Sep 2001


    kill CDMA

    a****** cellular providers like CDMA because there's no ability to swap out SIM cards, that is, you're stuck buying your phone from the provider rather than choosing your own unlocked phone if you wish, or buying a locked phone then unlocking it after the contract is up and using it unlocked.

    As pointed out, if you travel internationally you're screwed if your domestic N. America provider is on CDMA, you have to buy a separate phone. Bogus. If America is goddamned kickass, why is our cellular technology so f'in' stuck in the 20th century?

  1. DaveyJJ

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Nov 2004


    Months ago I said ...

    That Apple is planning an end-run around Rogers and their stubborn, monopolistic, price-gouging of Canadian wireless and cable customers. Here's what I posted on a variety of forums ...

    OK, several months ago I suggested in a number of places that the SteveŽ has run into quite a forceful personality in Ted Rogers. For those of you living elsewhere besides Canada, Ted Rogers is the incredibly wealthy and inflexible CEO of Rogers Communications, Canada's largest cable/telcom/etc company. And Canadian telcos like Bell, Rogers and Telus has a long history of charging customers through the nose for their services. Most Canadain cell phone plans are outrageously priced compared to other countries, and even basic cable plans can run $49/month in many markets.

    The problem for the iPhone in Canada is that Rogers has the only GSM network ... Bell and Telus both have CDMA.

    I'm telling you, when Steve told Ted that he'd have to give up his $150/month cell phone plans and give Apple part of the monthly fees and give users cell phone plans with unlimited data plans for CDN $50-60/month Ted simply laughed in his face.

    My suggestion months ago was that we haven't heard anything about the iPhone and Rogers because Apple was planning an end-run around Ted by shopping the iPhone to Bell or Telus. But how, since both the others are CDMA networks?

    Well ... in a remarkable bit of news I read in the Globe and Mail's Business section last week, Telus has announced that within a six months (and before the end of 2008) they are switching their network over to GSM. To carry new and exciting phones, they say.

    What a remarkable coincidence, eh? My prediction stands ... Rogers have shot themselves in the foot with their price-gouging demands and will lose the iPhone to Telus. And will regret it, I'm sure. Any other fellow Canadians think so?

  1. SubPop

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Jan 2006


    re: daveyjj

    Woot, my man. Woot!

  1. Flying Meat

    Dedicated MacNNer

    Joined: Jan 2007



    "would help Telus' business by adding subscribers who need GSM phones to roam in Europe and most other countries."

    Gee. Who would ever need that? Your phone doesn't need to work every where you go, right? I didn't need my phone to work the last 3 times I was in Euro... eh, yes I did.

    But how many people travel to different countries? surely just the 2 or 3 people who have to travel for business. It just doesn't make sense to add that functionality for, you know, people. Right?

  1. t6hawk

    Mac Enthusiast

    Joined: Jan 2001



    Well if you have a 3G cell from outside North America you'll find that at least with Rogers, the frequency used for 3G is not the same and thus the phone will not see the network. I have a 3G/GSM phone from Japan and am on Rogers but the 3G network that covers the city I'm in is not found by the phone. If Telus uses the same setup and frequency as the international carriers for 3G I'd switch to them.

  1. ajmas

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Nov 2006


    GSM advantages

    I believe it would be wise business decision to move GSM for Telus, but it is not with cost during the transition. Some of the advantages: - access to roaming customers, both national and international - access to larger range of handsets (including first generation) - elimination of the cost of CDMA phone conversion - elimination of cost, in support calls for phone changing handsets

    Of course the downside is that this move is going to involve a whole of money.

    I suspect that if they do make the switch then it would make sense to go straight to 3G or 4G. Since they are already spending the money, they might as well just spend it once.

    It should also be noted that Verizon is moving to GSM 4G networks, so they certainly won't be the first in North America to migrate.

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