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MTS debuts super-fast LTE wireless network

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MTS has launched the fastest wireless network yet in Winnipeg and Brandon, just in time for today's introduction of the iPhone 5.

The Winnipeg-based telco's CEO, Pierre Blouin, mentioned the soft launch of its new LTE (long-term evolution) network, which occurred late last month, at Tuesday's BMO Capital Markets Media & Telecom Conference in Toronto.

Blouin said MTS is offering only two devices that utilize the much faster speeds of the LTE network -- the Sony Xperia and the Huawei E397 USB Wireless LTE Internet Express Stick -- but that will likely change soon.

The iPhone 5 is expected to be LTE-capable and also backward-compatible with the legacy networks.

MTS is on its own in its foray into LTE, as opposed to the partnership with Rogers on the 4G HSPA network launched in 2011.

LTE is supposed to provide wireless download speeds up to five times faster than the 4G network, which itself was five times faster than its predecessor 3G network. LTE typically only handles data and the LTE-enabled devices seamlessly access the 4G infrastructure to deliver voice services.

MTS's launch of a faster network in the two largest cities in the province is part of the company's ongoing efforts to defend its turf in the wireless sector in Manitoba.

Blouin said that has gone fairly well, with his company and Rogers effectively dominating the Manitoba market with a combined 85 per cent share.

He said he was not that concerned about potential new competitors, including Bell Mobility's recent entry into Manitoba.

"It is a tough environment for new entrants to launch into, because there are not a lot of centres of population density," he said.

Last month, Bell launched 4G service touting access to the network for 70 per cent of Manitobans. In effect, however, the network covers Winnipeg and the surrounding areas -- up to the southern Lake Winnipeg basin, southeast to Steinbach and west to Portage la Prairie.

Bell has said it intends to extend the network from Portage la Prairie to Brandon later in 2012.

Telus and Virgin both have a small share of the Manitoba wireless market.

Blouin said MTS's strategy is to improve its profitability and not worry too much about competing for every last subscriber.

For instance, the company has lost some prepaid wireless subscribers, but they typically have a lower average revenue per user. But for the second quarter ending June 30, the company recorded a 24.8 per cent increase in wireless data revenue, the segment that would be addressed with the new LTE network.

Blouin also declared the company's determination to stay out of price wars with its television competitor, Shaw TV. He said he believes some of Shaw's pricing is unsustainable.

In the end, Blouin said, MTS has an advantage over its competitors because it is the only company that can offer bundling rebates with up to four different offerings, including TV and wireless.

martin.cash@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 12, 2012 B5

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