Rogers and Bell Want Their Own Wireless Network within Toronto Subway System

The Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) is set to expand their wireless coverage to the Toronto subway, south of Bloor along the “U” section of the line, set to go live later this month.

BAI Canada won the contract to install a Wi-Fi and cellular network in the TTC back in 2012, and since then, only Freedom Mobile has signed on for wireless coverage along the subway system.

Rogers, Telus and Bell continue to hold out from joining the network, with two of these incumbents telling CBC News they want to build their own instead. Without the ‘Big 3’ onboard, the vast majority of Canadians do not have cellular coverage underground.

BAI Canada CEO, Ken Ranger, told CBC News, Canada’s wireless networks don’t want to play ball unlike those in the United States, saying, “To date, unlike our New York office where we have Verizon-AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile, here in Toronto only Freedom Mobile has taken us up on the offer.”

“Bell and other Canadian carriers look forward to building the wireless infrastructure required to serve customers in the Toronto subway system, but we have been denied access to do so,” said the company in a statement to CBC News. The company issued a similar statement last year.

Rogers said they would prefer to have their own wireless network installed, partnering with other wireless carriers. Telus did not comment.

However, Ranger says there’s limited space in the tunnels for Rogers and Bell to install their own networks. “As an operator, I can understand wanting to own my own infrastructure. However all four of them can’t build their own separate infrastructure,” he said. He added their model has worked in New York and Hong Kong, but not in Toronto.

The BAI Canada contract signed in 2012 was for 20 years, worth $25 million to the TTC. BAI Canada has the sole rights to build and operate the underground wireless network.

TTC spokesperson Stuart Green said, “All carriers have the option to take advantage of the existing infrastructure and we strongly encourage them to do so.”

The Big 3 and Videotron ended up building their own wireless network in Montreal’s STM, after the wireless companies held out from joining Chicago-based Extenet’s network. Looks like a similar move is in play right now with the TTC and wireless incumbents.