Rogers to spend $450 million over 3 years to upgrade its B.C. wireless network

VANCOUVER – Rogers Communications (TSX:RCI.B) will spend an additional $450 million over the next three years to upgrade its wireless communications network in British Columbia, where it’s in a tight race for market share with Telus Corp.

Toronto-based Rogers announced Thursday that more than 70 communities in the province will get improved coverage, including an unspecified number that have been outside its coverage areas.

It says Fort Nelson, along Highway 5 north of Kamloops and Rogers Pass are among the areas that it will begin to serve.

Rogers also says it will enhance its current mobile network so it can carry high-speed Internet to more places, including deep inside buildings, elevators and basements where signals may not have reached previously.

To achieve the improved penetration, Rogers will use some of the 700 megahertz spectrum that it acquired in a competitive auction conducted in January by Industry Canada.

Rogers outspent its two main rivals in the 700 MHz auction, paying a total of $3.29 billion compared with $1.14 billion for Telus (TSX:T) and $565.7 million for BCE’s Bell (TSX:BCE)

Rogers has the largest base of wireless subscribers in Canada at the end of the first quarter of this year, followed by Telus Corp. (TSX:T) and BCE’s Bell (TSX:BCE), according to the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association.

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission has estimated that Rogers and Telus were roughly tied for market share in British Columbia in 2012, the latest figures available.

All three of the three biggest national carriers are upgrading parts of the networks with the 700 MHz spectrum, which helps deliver TV-quality video and fast music downloads to smartphones, tablets, laptops and other connected devices.

Telus announced in May that it would invest $2.8 billion in new infrastructure across British Columbia through 2016, but the company hasn’t disclosed how much of the total is going to its wireless network and how much to its landline networks.