Canada’s Rogers hooks up with UBC on 5G test bed

Canadian flag
Rogers is working with the University of British Columbia on a 5G test bed. (Pixabay)

Canadian service provider Rogers struck a deal with the University of British Columbia (UBC) in Vancouver to build a 5G hub on the campus that will serve as a test bed and blueprint for 5G in Canada.

In the three-year, multimillion dollar deal, Rogers will deploy 5G-ready network equipment and infrastructure at UBC starting early next year. It marks another step in Rogers’ path to 5G—one that’s decidedly slower than operators in the U.S.

Areas of interest for the research include monitoring cars and traffic to develop smarter and safer cities, as well as autonomous vehicles, machine learning, artificial intelligence and network slicing technology for use in robotics, farming and medical applications. Developing skills in computer science, applied mathematics, machine learning and software development are also on the agenda.

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“5G represents a massive technological transformation that will connect everything in our world from people and machines, to homes and cities. The global race to unlock its potential is underway,” said Rogers Communications President and CEO Joe Natale in a press release. “Our partnership with UBC will ensure we bring our country and Canadians the very best 5G has to offer.”

Rogers is counting heavily on its 4.5G equipment to help it reach 5G. All of the 4.5G investments it’s making in the network will be 5G ready, Natale told investment analysts during the company’s second-quarter conference call, according to a Seeking Alpha transcript. Rogers is eyeing a combination of 3.5 GHz and millimeter wave spectrum, but the 3.5 GHz is the most readily available and Rogers happens to own a lot of it already.

Rogers earlier this year announced a multiyear network plan with Ericsson that involves continued rollout of its Gigabit LTE network with gear based on the 3GPP standards, including 4x4 MIMO, four-carrier aggregation and 256 QAM. The company is densifying its network with small cells and macro sites across the country and working on 5G trials with Ericsson in Toronto and Ottawa.

Interestingly, Canada’s wireless penetration sits at about 87% whereas the U.S. is 120%. Natale said there’s really no structural reason why Canada shouldn’t be at U.S. penetration levels and over the course of the next few years, he expects Canada to reach that 120% level.

Canada has announced an auction of 600 MHz in 2019 and plans call for holding a 2021 auction of millimeter wave spectrum. Telus and Bell are Canada’s two other major mobile network operators.

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