Bell and Rogers launch fast mid-band 5G in Canada

Bell jar(Opens in a new window) and Rogers(Opens in a new window) both announced the launch of mid-band 3.5GHz 5G in Canada, a move that will boost the performance of cellphone users across the country.

Rogers made his announcement first, saying 3.5 GHz would be coming to Nanaimo today and “Calgary, Edmonton, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto and Vancouver” in the not too distant future.

Bell then announced its own network as “5G+,” and the company says it will have “theoretical peak download speeds of up to 3 gigabits per second.” Launching first in Toronto, Canada’s largest city, Bell aims to cover 40% of Canada’s population by the end of 2022.

Telus users also get access to the Bell wireless network where available.

The network works with phones that support band n78. According to Bell, this includes the iPhone 12, 13 and the new SE; the Galaxy S21 and S22; and the Google Pixel 6. Phones may need firmware updates, but they will come fairly quickly.

We also reached out to Telus and Videotron, who also own the 3.5GHz spectrum, but they didn’t respond in time for this story.


Just a little bit different

Like many things in the two countries, mid-band in Canada is similar to what you’ve seen in the US so far, but just a little bit different. It ranges from 3450-3650MHz, which in the US would be the 3.45GHz band leased mostly from AT&T and Dish, plus some (but not all) of the adjacent CBRS band.

In Toronto, Bell’s first market, Bell and Telus share 80MHz of the new midband spectrum. That’s more than Verizon uses from C-band, but not quite as much as T-Mobile for its “Ultra Capacity”.

In Nanaimo, Rogers’ first market, Rogers has 70 MHz of mid-band spectrum. (The map below shows allotments in many metropolitan areas across the country.)

While phones with Qualcomm X60 or higher modems, such as the Galaxy S21 and iPhone 13, support combining Canadian carriers’ existing 5G frequency bands with the new 3500MHz, carrier configuration may require phones to first select one band or the other. But moving to 3500MHz from existing 5G bands will already provide a boost in performance, and network operators are sure to figure out how to combine the channels later.

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Our initial testing of Verizon’s 60MHz C-band showed average download speeds of 534Mbps in good conditions.

While Bell focused its announcement on consumer smartphones, Rogers’ announcement went further into radically new applications for 5G. As the company has a self-contained 5G core, it is interested in offering enterprise private networks, home wireless Internet and smart city applications, the company’s press release said.

“Rogers, in partnership with AWS Outpost Mobile Edge Computing (MEC), Ericsson, Immersiv.io, MLSE and the NHL, has already tested an on-premises hockey augmented reality immersive fan experience utilizing the Rogers 5G 3500MHz network to present expected benefits to fans. “, says the publication. (Bell had a test application last year that allowed a 360-degree view of hockey games.)

We’re driving across Canada later this summer to test the cellular networks and we expect to see some of this exciting new system.

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