Rogers Ordered to Grant TTC Wireless Access to Bell and Telus

In a significant announcement made today, François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, revealed new spectrum licence conditions, mandating Rogers give Telus, Bell and other carriers wireless access to the TTC subway, by October 3, 2023.

This announcement was made with Olivia Chow, Toronto’s Mayor, and several members of Parliament from the Toronto area on Monday.

Effective immediately, these conditions mandate every mobile carrier active in Toronto to:

  1. Guarantee the same quality of service to all Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) subway riders by the set deadline of October 3.
  2. Swiftly initiate efforts to augment the existing network coverage, ensuring comprehensive voice, text, and data services across the TTC subway system within strict timelines.
  3. Ensure service in every new station and tunnel concurrently with their operational inauguration by the TTC.

Failure to adhere to these conditions could see the Minister imposing penalties such as financial fines, or even the suspension or revocation of the spectrum licence.

“Cellular connectivity on the subway is about more than just convenience. It is a critical public safety matter. TTC passengers have waited too long to access cellular services when riding the subway. That’s why today we’re taking immediate action on behalf of hundreds of thousands of frustrated passengers to require that by October 3, all subway riders have access to cellular services regardless of their mobile carrier,” said Champagne.

The objective behind these rigorous measures is the federal government’s commitment to guaranteeing that all Torontonians on the subway system have uninterrupted access to cellular services at the earliest, especially vital services like emergency response, it said.

“Everyone should be able to have cell phone service on the subway, regardless of their carrier. I welcome today’s announcement and invite mobile carriers to work together to quickly deliver the service that Torontonians need and deserve. People should be able to [rely] on these services while riding the TTC,” said Mayor Chow.

Last month, Rogers launched 5G in key subway sections, sparking disputes with telecom rivals Bell and Telus over access. This began when Rogers acquired BAI Canada, the firm that held exclusive subway wireless infrastructure rights on the TTC. Following violent subway incidents, Champagne emphasized the need for universal cellular service and, given the companies’ unresolved differences, started a consultation to potentially impose additional license conditions.

Update September 11, 9am PDT: Statements added from Rogers and Telus.

“This approach reflects what we’ve been proposing all along – to bring 5G services to all riders as quickly as possible. Bell and Telus have been dragging their heels and the federal government is now forcing them to work with us in earnest to make connectivity possible for all riders. This is good news for Toronto transit riders. While we’ve been busy building, they’ve been busy whining. We’ll continue to work around the clock to upgrade and expand the network so all riders can connect anywhere on the subway,” said a Rogers spokesperson in a statement to iPhone in Canada.

A Telus spokesperson also sent in a statement to iPhone in Canada, saying it “is pleased by today’s decision to compel Rogers to provide access to all carriers on the TTC. Minister Champagne’s order will significantly improve public safety and fair competition. It is regrettable that it took his action to force Rogers to do what they had promised to do months ago. The Telus team stands ready to light up access as soon as possible, to the benefit of all TTC riders.”

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