Rogers, Bell Canada Light WiMAX Network

Rogers Communications Inc. continued its quest to go wide with WiMAX, announcing that its Inukshuk Wireless Inc. joint venture with Bell Canada Enterprises completed the first phase of a wireless-broadband network and is now offering service in 20 markets across Canada.

Based on a pre-standard version of WiMAX, the network is one of the largest in the world to come online. It now covers 5 million homes and 40% of the Canadian population, with major markets including the Vancouver metro area, Victoria, Calgary, Edmonton, Whitehorse, the Toronto metro area, Ottawa, Quebec City, the Montreal metro area and Halifax.

With that, Rogers and Bell Canada are separately rolling out their own WiMAX Internet services.

For Rogers, that consists of the “Portable Internet from Rogers Yahoo! Hi-Speed Internet” service, which offers connection speed as high as 1.5 megabits per second downstream and 256 kilobits per second upstream for $49.95 Canadian ($42.80) per month, plus a $C99.95 ($85.65) modem purchase and a one-year contract.

Meanwhile, Bell Canada is offering “Sympatico High Speed Unplugged” service in two speed tiers, each requiring a two-year contract -- a 512-kbps downstream offering for $C45 ($38.56) per month and a 3-mbps tier for $C60 ($51.41).

Rogers and Bell Canada began work on the joint WiMAX project late last year, agreeing to pool their spectrum and create the Inukshuk Wireless joint venture to oversee network construction and operations. Rogers is kicking in spectrum rights it has in the 2.3-gigahertz, 2.5-GHz and 3.5-GHz bands, while Bell Canada will contribute its spectrum holdings at 2.3 GHz and 3.5 GHz.

The two companies plan to spend $C200 million ($171.4 million) on network construction by 2008, expanding the network to cover 100 urban and rural markets.