Rogers to acquire TTC wireless network, bring 5G to subway system

Rogers has announced they will be buying BAI Communications Canadian operations. This move will allow Rogers to bring their 5G network to TTC subways. It's expected to be fully connected in two years.

By The Canadian Press and News Staff

Rogers Communications Inc. is buying the company that owns the wireless network in Toronto’s subway and will bring 5G to the entire system, the company said Monday.

The telecom giant said in a news release it has entered into an agreement to purchase BAI Communications’ Canadian operations.

In 2012, BAI was awarded a $25-million contract by the TTC to build and operate its public Wi-Fi and cellular network.

However, Freedom Mobile is the only telecom company that has signed on to provide coverage to its customers through BAI’s network, meaning most mobile customers have little to no service along the subway line.

An increase in violent incidents on the TTC over the past year has brought the gap under fresh scrutiny, with some calling on the federal telecommunications regulator to force Rogers, Bell and Telus to use BAI’s network.

Toronto mayoral candidate Ana Bailao has been vocal about her intention to push for cell service along the TTC if elected mayor.

“I won’t be shy, I raised this and pushed this,” Bailao said. “The fight isn’t over yet. We need to make sure that this service is available to all residents in our subway system. I will keep fighting for this.”

Fellow candidate Mitzie Hunter echoed Bailao, saying the takeover of TTC cell phone service by Rogers is a positive step, but she urges the extension of service to all providers.

“Safety of TTC riders is a priority that means anyone with a cell phone ought to be able to call for help if needed regardless of who provides their cell service as is the case on GO trains,” says Hunter.

“TTC riders need to feel safe and to be safe. Being able to use their cell phones regardless of who their provider is part of making people safer.”

RELATED: Toronto mayoral candidate Bailao promises cell service on TTC if elected

Rogers said with the acquisition of BAI, it can now invest in building a comprehensive and reliable 5G network for the entire TTC subway system.

The company said its investment will bring 911 coverage to the whole system. Currently, it said 911 coverage is available to all mobile users only where BAI’s network exists: on station platforms, concourses, and approximately 25 per cent of the tunnels.

Rogers said it will work to quickly address gaps in the busiest and most critical sections of the subway.

“The agreement to acquire BAI Canada is a significant first step in modernizing and expanding the existing network to deliver enhanced 5G wireless service to millions of transit riders throughout the entire subway system in Canada’s largest city,” Rogers’ Chief Technology and Information Officer Ron McKenzie said in the news release.

The terms of the agreement and the value of the deal weren’t disclosed.

Bell comments on Rogers’ agreement

A Bell Canada spokesperson said it’s troubling that the City of Toronto and TTC “did not learn from the experiences of their counterparts in Montreal, Ottawa, Vancouver and Eglinton Crosstown LRT right here in Toronto.”

It now appears that the subway project has once again been given to one party with no assurances that all wireless service providers will have access. The TTC is just replacing one gatekeeper with another,” said Bell Canada’s Senior Manager of Media Relations, Caroline Audet.

Audet said that Rogers securing the contract without an open bidding process is surprising, “especially given how TTC customers were so poorly served by BAI for so many years.”

The city needs to show some leadership and mandate immediate access for all carriers so that all TTC customers can be served by the carrier of their choice right away.”

Rogers, meanwhile, said extensive upgrades are needed to modernize the network.

BAI said in an update posted on its website that the deal was the result of “active negotiations over the past year.”

“Each market we operate in is unique and multi-party negotiations are often complex. In this case, we believe this is the best outcome to make connectivity a reality for TTC subway users,” BAI’s update stated, noting the company would continue to service transit systems in cities like New York, London and Hong Kong.

Rogers said the 5G network build is expected to take approximately two years because the windows available for construction are limited in order to keep the subway operational.

“Together with the TTC, Rogers will work on a phased deployment plan, including network design, architecture and rollout logistics, for both network improvements and expansion in the stations, concourses and in all of the subway tunnels,” the company said in its release.

The completed 5G network will deliver wireless coverage in all 75 stations and almost 80 kilometres of the subway system, Rogers said.

The deal is expected to close in the next two weeks.

Rogers is the parent company of CityNews

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