Bell extends 5G leadership with additional 3500 MHz spectrum


Bell is acquiring significant additional mid-band, flexible-use 3500 MHz wireless spectrum in the recently concluded auction by Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada.

Essential to Canada’s ongoing transition to 5G communications, these high-capacity airwaves unleash the full potential of Bell’s 5G advantage, extending Bell’s leadership in delivering enhanced 5G digital experiences to Canadian consumers and businesses in urban, rural and remote communities.

Bell is acquiring 271 licences for 678M MHz-POP of 3500 MHz spectrum – critical to enabling the full potential of 5G – for $2.07 billion. Together with existing holdings, Bell now possesses 1,690M MHz-POP, or 37% of this high-value spectrum available to national wireless carriers, acquired at an industry-leading average blended cost of $1.25 per MHz-POP, in line with Bell’s network leadership objectives and the expectations of the financial community.

Bell Logo

“Underscoring the Bell team’s goal to advance how Canadians connect with each other and the world, acquiring this significant additional 3500 MHz spectrum will drive Bell’s ongoing leadership in 5G, a critical component in our multibillion-dollar program to accelerate investment in Canada’s next-generation network infrastructure and services,” said Mirko Bibic, President and CEO of BCE and Bell Canada. “Leading the way in 5G is a great reflection of the Bell for Better initiative and our focus on delivering the economic, social and environmental benefits of broadband network leadership to Canadians everywhere.”

Launched in major centres across Canada last year and now first to offer 5G roaming in the US, Bell 5G is ranked by multiple analysts as Canada’s fastest mobile network (most recently by Ookla in its 2021 Speedtest Awards). Bell 5G is currently available to approximately 35% of the national population, and is expected to reach 70% by the end of 2021. Bell’s Wireless Home Internet (WHI) service is bringing broadband Internet access to small towns and rural locations in Atlantic Canada, Québec, Ontario and Manitoba, and will also be enhanced with 5G capability later this year.

Bell is acquiring 30% of total 3500 MHz spectrum available to national wireless carriers at auction, including spectrum in major and secondary urban markets across the country, which, together with existing holdings, secures all the 3500 MHz spectrum necessary for Bell to continue leading the roll out of 5G across Canada. This includes 52% of available spectrum in WHI rural markets.

“With our strong 3500 MHz spectrum position, we’re ready to take the country’s top-ranked 5G service even further, leveraging the full capabilities of the technology to help bridge the digital divide with enhanced broadband access for more rural and remote communities,” said Stephen Howe, Bell’s Chief Technology Officer. “The speed and capacity of 5G, coupled with Bell’s unparalleled fibre backhaul infrastructure and rapidly expanding network footprints, offers infinite service possibilities for consumers and business users, from augmented reality and machine learning to smart homes, vehicles and cities, and we’re eager to deliver these benefits to Canadians no matter where they may live.”

Bell’s accelerated infrastructure investment

Enabled by government and regulatory policies encouraging significant investment in Canada’s critical infrastructure, Bell’s network acceleration program increases capital investment in 5G, fibre and rural network infrastructure by up to $1.7 billion over 2 years – in addition to the $4 billion Bell typically invests each year in network expansion and enhancement.

With increased spending on network capacity in 2020 to manage the extraordinary usage increases during the COVID crisis, capital investment by Bell from 2020-2022 will total approximately $14 billion, representing the company’s largest infrastructure investment program in its 141-year history.

The Bell 5G advantage

5G capitalizes on the power of both wireless and fibre communications, and with 94% of Bell’s cell sites connected to its fibre network, Bell 5G leads in providing the low latency critical to real-time applications ranging from remote surgery to ultra-HD video.

With over 2,700 network locations across the country, Bell has more network points of presence than any other carrier in Canada, a key enabler for multi-access edge computing (MEC) that brings the computing power, processing and storage potential of 5G closer to developers and end users.

Bell recently announced a MEC agreement with Amazon Web Services and a strategic technology partnership with Google Cloud to deliver enhanced digital experiences for Canadians that take full advantage of Bell 5G’s speed, latency and bandwidth benefits, empowering Bell to take a leading share in 5G services.

Bell also leads the industry in research and development, including projects under way with Université de Sherbrooke and Western University to develop new 5G consumer and business services.

5G delivers important environmental benefits, with the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association estimating 5G technology can support 1000x the data traffic at half of current energy consumption over the next decade. These sustainability advantages are a prominent part of Bell’s plan to achieve carbon neutral operations in 2025.