Rogers Communications Inc, BCE Inc CEO Trade Barbs Over Which Company Has the Fastest Mobile Network

TORONTO — The heads of Canada’s two biggest telecom companies traded shots over wireless performance Tuesday, disputing who has the country’s fastest mobile network.

In a series of fiery comments at an industry conference in Toronto, Rogers Communications Inc. CEO Guy Laurence disputed a study that found BCE Inc. has the fastest network, arguing his top competitor doesn’t even run a truly national network.

Cope kicked off the skirmish at the BMO Capital Markets Annual Media and Telecom Conference in Toronto by saying Bell is winning subscribers due to its superior network, according to the moderator (his speech was not shared with media).

“I might agree with him, but then we’d both be wrong,” Laurence fired back when given a chance to respond.

The boast comes as telecom companies jockey to be seen as fast, with all major providers citing network performance as one factor that attracts and retains customers.

Laurence’s comments come despite two studies released last month by PCMag and Speedtest by Ookla, both of which crowned Bell winner of the fastest network in Canada.

But he called PCMag’s methodology into question, noting it only conducted tests at 20 locations around Toronto. Drivers stayed at each location for at least 15 minutes using software that collects data every three minutes, suggesting at least 100 tests were done per carrier.Advertisement

“You need to do 1,117 in the Greater Toronto Area for it to be statistically significant,” Laurence said. “We have data from 794,000 tests, and it shows a very different picture from what you see in these pop up articles you get in the press.”

Yet Laurence didn’t mention the results from Speedtest by Ookla, which also found Bell edged out Rogers as the fastest network based on 794,613 crowdsourced tests from across the country. (It’s not clear whether Laurence was referencing this study, which posted a much smaller gap between Bell’s and Rogers’ speeds.)

Still, he argued that Bell and Telus Corp., his second-largest competitor, aren’t national networks because they have infrastructure in half the country and share infrastructure in the other half.

“It’s kind of stuck together with sticky tape,” he said. “We run a national network, that’s different to half a country the last time I looked.”

Bell added 69,848 postpaid subscribers in the last quarter, beating Rogers with 65,000 adds and Telus at 61,000. All three beat analysts’ expectations after a fairly dismal first quarter.

Big Three executives couldn’t pinpoint a reason for the surprise boost, but all point to network performance as key to adding and holding customers. Laurence also cited customer service and content adds such as music streaming services as methods to attract subscribers.

This sets the stage for the next quarter, which is expected to be even busier due to back-to-school promotions and new smartphone releases. But Telus’ David Fuller, executive vice-president of consumers, told the conference that many customers are waiting to upgrade their phones. The switch to two-year from three-year contracts means there isn’t as urgent a need to replace aging phones, he said, also citing sticker shock due to a lower Canadian dollar as a factor.

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