updated 06:10 pm EDT, Mon October 5, 2009
Bell's early HSPA launch official
Bell today confirmed its early HSPA launch and said it will launch the new network in November, about three months ahead of its self-imposed deadline of the Vancouver 2010 Olympics. The network will also launch faster than expected and start off with HSPA+, which like the recent Rogers upgrade will give it a peak speed of 21Mbps downstream and about 5.76Mbps for uploads.
The Canadian provider plans a faster network rollout than Rogers, though, and claims that about 93 percent of the country should be covered by at least some form of HSPA by early 2010. Bell is helped by its existing deal to share networks with Telus, which is already building out its HSPA network and now appears near-certain to launch early and with HSPA+ as well. A Telus representative reached by Electronista declined comment.
What devices will accompany the launch weren't mentioned. Recent leaks, however, have pointed to the BlackBerry Bold 9700 being a launch device and at least one other phone as well as network adapters following suit. Neither Bell nor Telus plans to drop their existing CDMA or EVDO networks in the near future.
The new timetable immediately puts competitive pressure on Rogers, which has until now led the Canadian market through its choice of network standards. As the only major carrier with GSM and HSPA networks in Canada, it was until now the only national carrier that could support the iPhone as well as many internationally released devices. Before today, Bell and Telus alike were limited to CDMA and EVDO, and often were forced to use either CDMA adaptations of GSM/HSPA devices or else wait for CDMA-specific hardware like the Palm Pre. The move also lets Rogers customers switch to Bell, or in the reverse direction, without having to abandon their existing phones.
The news comes along with a leak claiming that both Bell and Telus will announce iPhone deals as early as Tuesday or Wednesday. The Globe and Mail source is short on full details but expects the Apple handset to go live along with the network in November. If it includes the iPhone 3GS, the handset's performance would be the same on either network as the smartphone is limited by its 3G chipset, not existing networks.