Rogers to Bring 5G to TTC Subway, Acquires BAI Canada

Update: Responses from rivals Bell and Telus on Rogers now controlling the TTC subway networks:


Rogers announced on Monday evening it plans to provide full 5G connectivity services throughout the entire Toronto subway system, including universal access to 911 for all passengers.

To do so, Rogers will acquire BAI Communications’ Canadian operations (BAI Canada), which has held exclusive rights to build the Toronto Transit Commission’s (TTC) wireless network since 2012. This acquisition enables Rogers to make the necessary investments to construct a reliable and comprehensive 5G network across the TTC subway system.

This development is crucial to ensuring that 911 services are available throughout the entire subway system. Currently, TTC users can only call 911 where a cellular network exists – on station platforms, concourses, and approximately 25% of tunnels. Rogers aims to swiftly address gaps in the busiest and most vital subway sections.

Ron McKenzie, Rogers’ Chief Technology and Information Officer, explained the importance of the acquisition in a statement, saying, “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 is proud to make these investments to deliver world-class connectivity for Torontonians, added McKenzie.

Over time, passengers will experience the rollout of 5G coverage for all wireless services beyond 911. The 5G network construction is expected to take around two years to complete due to limited overnight construction windows.

Rogers will work closely with the TTC on a phased deployment plan, addressing network design, architecture, and rollout logistics for both network improvements and expansion in stations, concourses, and subway tunnels.

Extensive upgrades to the fibre network and radio equipment are necessary to modernize the network, increase cellular capacity, and enhance the quality of current 3G and 4G services while adding new 5G mobile services for millions of additional users.

The completed 5G network will provide seamless wireless coverage with mobile voice and data services in all 75 stations and nearly 80 kilometres of Toronto’s subway system.

This investment aligns with Rogers’ commitment to expanding connectivity for Torontonians, and it builds on existing initiatives to bring advanced mobile connectivity to underground transit riders across Canada, it says.

Rogers anticipates the acquisition of BAI Canada will close within the next two weeks, subject to closing conditions. No terms of the deal were disclosed.

“BAI Canada has been a long-standing partner of the TTC to deliver connectivity to the Toronto subway. Our goal from the start has always been to connect the unconnected by delivering services to as many riders as possible. Following active negotiations over the past year, we have decided that the best outcome for the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) and its riders is a sale of our assets to Rogers. Rogers plans to build out a 5G network throughout the entire subway system,” said the company in a statement. Rogers will take over TTC cellular and Wi-Fi networks.

The news definitely comes as a surprise, as rider safety in the TTC has been recently questioned, due to none of the ‘Big 3’ carriers signing onto the BAI Canada network, aside from Freedom Mobile, now owned by Quebecor.

Recently, the federal government approved the Rogers-Shaw merger, despite critics objecting to the move seen as limiting competition and increasing prices. But now this BAI Canada acquisition seemingly makes Rogers look like a hero over Telus and Bell when it comes to TTC wireless coverage.

When Chicago’s Extenet had signed a deal to build a wireless network for the Société de transport de Montréal (STM) and its underground subway, big telecoms including Rogers, Telus, Bell and Videotron held out from joining the network.

Eventually, Extenet gave up and ditched their plan, and it was only after that the ‘Big 3’ and Videotron swooped in to form their own network with the STM in 2013. Many suspected major telecoms were waiting for a similar situation for the TTC, but now Rogers has just acquired BAI Canada outright to take control of wireless networks in the TTC subway.