Editor’s note: this article has been updated to clarify the attribution of several statements from Rogers.
SUNDRE/CARSTAIRS — The roll-out of Rogers’ 5G network that now reaches Sundre and Carstairs will not only increase the overall coverage area for residents and businesses, but also substantially boost upload and download speeds, the Canadian telecom giant recently announced.
“5G is a next generation wireless network technology that over time will deliver unprecedented speed, instant response times and fast, reliable connections, fundamentally changing how we live and work,” Warren Fletcher, vice-president, Access Networks at Rogers, was quoted as saying in a prepared press statement in response to emailed questions.
The service is available to Rogers wireless customers who live in Sundre and Carstairs and have Infinite plans with 5G devices, he said.
The wireless technology has been billed as an important part of preparing municipalities to become future-ready to develop smart communities while offering customers a much improved online experience with reduced latency, whether streaming or gaming, Zac Carreiro, Rogers Communications media relations manager, wrote by email.
Yet the new network will benefit not just residents and businesses, but also agricultural producers seeking to maximize their operations’ efficiency.
“As it evolves, 5G will offer new experiences and capabilities, including saving farmers time and money with wireless sensors that monitor soil conditions, autonomous vehicles, early earthquake detection technology, drone delivery services and much more,” said Fletcher.
The telecom said it was the first in Canada to launch 5G — short for “fifth generation — in early 2020.
“Since then, we’ve been rolling out the service to communities across the country,” said Fletcher.
Providing a comparison to the quality of service previously available through 4G, Rogers' official website states that the new wireless technology boasts “unprecedented speeds.”
“5G can reach peak data rates of up to 100 times faster than 4G LTE,” the company states. “This means you can stream, download, and upload large quantities of data at speeds like never before.”
The major upgrade will also deliver much greater network capacity, as 5G supports upward of 10 million connections per kilometre, representing more than 10 times the available capacity under 4G LTE. As well, the company says users can expect far reduced lag time and “instant responses.”
“5G reduces response times to as low as one millisecond, or up to 10 times lower than 4G LTE for ultra-low latency,” the company says, adding this enables “experiences like multi-player cloud gaming on the go and autonomous driving.”
In response to a question about whether Rogers received any funding from the federal government, which has over the past number of years invested billions of dollars to increase high-speed internet connectivity in remote and rural communities throughout Canada, Fletcher wrote, “This 5G expansion was fully led and funded by Rogers. We are also working closely with provincial and federal governments to help bridge the digital divide, both in Alberta and across Canada.”
As Rogers and Shaw pursue the possibility of merging, the telecoms will, once combined, invest $6.5 billion throughout Western Canada, creating thousands of jobs and further accelerating the 5G rollout, he said.
“We will also be committing $1 billion to connect more rural and Indigenous communities to high-speed internet across Western Canada, including many throughout Alberta,” he said.
However, that merger has not yet been finalized. The Competition Bureau recently filed an application to prevent the takeover of Shaw Communications Inc. by Rogers Communications Inc, claiming the end result will lead to reduced competition for consumers who will face higher prices and worse service.
In Alberta, Shaw has some fibre optic internet infrastructure deployed, but Rogers does not and only offers wireless service options, said Carreiro.
Responding to a question about the concerns some people harbour about the new wireless technology, he said, “the industry is federally regulated and we work closely with Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada to make sure every product and service we offer Canadians meets rigorous safety standards.”
According to the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association, unfounded claims about 5G stem largely from the technology’s use of radiofrequency energy. Experts have studied radiofrequency energy, which is used for mobile phones, base stations, as well as other wireless services, for decades, the association states.
“Based on available scientific evidence, there are no health risks from exposure to the low levels of radiofrequency EMF (electromagnetic fields) which people are exposed to from cellphones, cellphone towers, antennas and 5G devices,” states Health Canada.
But questions about what advantages wireless technology such as 5G offers over physical, fibre-to-the-premise infrastructure; how bad weather could potentially impact signal strength and service; or why Rogers isn’t deploying fibre optics in places like Sundre or Carstairs that aren’t that remote, went unanswered.
Rogers previously issued a press statement in response to the concerns raised about the proposed merger with Shaw and the potential impact to Canadian consumers in terms of having fewer options in the marketplace further eroding competition and driving up prices.
“The Competition Bureau has stated that there must be a continuation of a vibrant and competitive wireless market. We agree, and to that end, we are engaged in a process to divest Shaw’s Freedom Wireless business in its entirety," a company spokesperson said.
"We will continue to engage constructively with regulators to reach a resolution that allows us to bring the benefits of the merger to Canadians as soon as possible, including accelerated rural network builds, expanding our combined network coverage and fostering competition and choice in areas of the country that have only one provider today," the statement continued.
"We are also prepared to defend the Transaction before the Competition Tribunal, and we will be filing our formal response in due course."