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Rogers to acquire TTC wireless network

Rogers Communications Inc. is buying the company that owns the wireless network in Toronto’s subway and will bring 5G to the entire system, the company said Monday.

The telecom giant said in a news release it has entered into an agreement to purchase BAI Communications’ Canadian operations.

In 2012, BAI was awarded a $25-million contract by the TTC to build and operate its public Wi-Fi and cellular network.

However, Freedom Mobile is the only telecom company that has signed on to provide coverage to its customers through BAI’s network, meaning most mobile customers have little to no service along the subway line.

An increase in violent incidents on the TTC over the past year has brought the gap under fresh scrutiny, with some calling on the federal telecommunications regulator to force Rogers, Bell and Telus to use BAI’s network.

Rogers said with the acquisition of BAI, it can now invest in building a comprehensive and reliable 5G network for the entire TTC subway system.

The company said its investment will bring 911 coverage to the whole system. Currently, it said 911 coverage is available to all mobile users only where BAI’s network exists: on station platforms, concourses, and approximately 25 per cent of the tunnels.

Rogers said it will work to quickly address gaps in the busiest and most critical sections of the subway.

“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 Chief Technology and Information Officer Ron McKenzie said in the news release.

The terms of the agreement and the value of the deal weren’t disclosed.

Extensive upgrades are needed to modernize the network, Rogers said.

BAI said in an update posted on its website that the deal was the result of “active negotiations over the past year.”

“Each market we operate in is unique and multi-party negotiations are often complex. In this case we believe this is the best outcome to make connectivity a reality for TTC subway users,” BAI’s update stated, noting the company would continue to service transit systems in cities like New York, London and Hong Kong.

Rogers said the 5G network build is expected to take approximately two years because the windows available for construction are limited in order to keep the subway operational.

“Together with the TTC, Rogers will work on a phased deployment plan, including network design, architecture and rollout logistics, for both network improvements and expansion in the stations, concourses and in all of the subway tunnels,” the company said in its release.

The completed 5G network will deliver wireless coverage in all 75 stations and almost 80 kilometres of the subway system, Rogers said.

The deal is expected to close in the next two weeks. Financial Post

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