MTS Inc. and Rogers Communications Inc. are teaming up once again to extend their wireless network sharing arrangement to the Long Term Evolution (LTE) network in the province.
The two companies announced a province-wide network sharing agreement that will see Rogers customers in Winnipeg, Brandon, Victoria Beach and Grand Beach gain access to the LTE network starting Sunday.
MTS customers in Winnipeg and Brandon have had access since August 2012 to the robust data network that allows mobile devices to experience download speeds of up to 150 Mbps (megabits per second.)
Although the two companies fight it out tooth and nail for wireless customers in Manitoba, MTS and Rogers have been sharing the 4G HSPA network in this province that they jointly developed about three years ago at a shared cost of around $100 million.
Kelvin Shepherd, president of MTS's Manitoba operations, said it would not be viable for the two companies to share the HSPA network and then each deploy their own LTE network.
(LTE networks carry data only and the advanced handsets that can access LTE automatically switch to the HSPA network when voice calls are made.)
In addition to the shared network, the two companies have entered into a commercial arrangement so MTS customers will have roaming access to Rogers' network when outside the province as well as a new deal regarding handset procurement and some technical alterations that Shepherd said will mean better roaming performance for MTS customers when they are outside the province.
"There are benefits for both our companies," Shepherd said. "We are both getting some cost savings or cost avoidance so that it's not as big an investment if we did everything on our own."
Luiza Staniec, a spokeswoman for Rogers, said Rogers did not have representation in Manitoba on an LTE network, which it does have elsewhere across the country.
"We want to make sure there is consistent network access across the country," she said. "(Partnering with MTS) allows us to implement LTE in Manitoba faster and reach more people at a more cost efficient way."
MTS previously announced plans to expand LTE coverage to six communities in 2013 and now both companies have plans to expand the 4G LTE network to reach more than 90 per cent of Manitoba's population in the next five years.
As the network is built up across the province, customers from each company will have access to the LTE networks at the same time.