(Toronto) Rogers Communications announced on Wednesday that it has partnered with SpaceX and Lynk Global to offer satellite-to-phone connectivity across Canada and boost coverage in remote areas.
The Toronto-based company announced at its annual general meeting of shareholders on Wednesday that the partnership aims to expand coverage for Rogers customers in areas not served by traditional wireless networks.
Rogers and SpaceX plan to use the latter’s Starlink low-Earth orbit satellites and Rogers’ national wireless spectrum to bring satellite phone technology to Canada.
The companies plan to start with satellite coverage for texting and eventually provide voice and data access in areas such as national parks and rural highways that are currently unconnected.
Starlink aims to bring high-speed internet access to areas where connections tend to be unreliable, expensive or unavailable.
In December, SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk tweeted that “Starlink (works) even in the most remote areas of Antarctica.”
Mr. Musk has also previously asserted that Canada “(was) a top priority for Starlink” and that the technology would be “designed to serve the underserved.”
Ottawa approved SpaceX’s offer to provide high-speed internet access to Canadians via Starlink in November 2020. This approval came after the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) accepted SpaceX’s license application. company the previous month.
Although Rogers did not specify a timeline for expanding coverage through the partnership with SpaceX, it said it would begin providing satellite phone coverage in 2024 in remote areas and rural highways through its agreement with Virginia-based Lynk Global.
Rogers said it intends to seek regulatory approval from several federal departments and the CRTC to launch Lynk’s technology in Canada.
“We have already successfully sent and received text messages to and from space,” Rogers Chairman and CEO Tony Staffieri said in his address to shareholders on Wednesday.
“We are proud to support this revolutionary technology and to be the first wireless company in Canada to bring satellite coverage to remote areas of our vast country. »
Rogers suffered a massive one-day network outage in July that left more than 12 million mobile and internet customers without service. The outage also caused problems connecting to the 911 emergency service.
The three largest carriers have since entered into a formal agreement to “ensure and guarantee” emergency roaming and other mutual assistance in the event of a major outage, after Industry Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne , ordered companies to create a back-up plan.
Staffi argued that in addition to its pan-Canadian 5G wireless network and an independent wireline network covering 70% of Canadian homes, Rogers would now have a “third line of defense” to avoid similar disruptions.
He pointed out that satellite coverage “would provide coast-to-coast reach and, more importantly, provide emergency 911 calls nationwide, especially in the event of a natural disaster.”
The company said it had successfully conducted technical tests with Lynk satellites in remote areas of British Columbia and would then begin testing in the Atlantic provinces.
Earlier Wednesday, Rogers posted profits up 30% to $511 million in its most recent quarter.
The fiscal first quarter, which ended March 31, was the last before the Toronto-based telecommunications giant acquired Shaw Communications – a $26 billion deal, which was first announced in March 2021.
The two companies only got the final green light from the federal government to move forward with the deal earlier in April after agreeing to several conditions, including selling Shaw’s wireless business, Freedom Mobile, to Videotron.
In the three weeks since the transaction closed, Staffieri said he has been focused on delivering synergies valued at $1 billion over the next two years, increasing capital expenditures and driving growth. greater competition and greater choices for consumers, especially those in Western Canada.
“There’s a lot to do, but I’m very encouraged by the energy and excitement I’ve seen both east and west as we bring these two strong companies together,” he said Wednesday during a conference call with analysts.
He said he has spent most of the past month in the West, meeting with Rogers staff and customers and local governments, as well as discussing further the upcoming decisions surrounding Shaw’s integration.
Staffieri recalled that the company announced in mid-April the repatriation of approximately 300 customer service positions from Shaw in British Columbia, Alberta and Manitoba – Rogers had committed to that its customer service is entirely located in Canada.
As part of the conditions imposed by Ottawa in exchange for its green light for the merger, Rogers must create 3,000 new jobs in the west of the country and establish a second headquarters in Calgary.
It also needs to spend $5.5 billion to expand its 5G network coverage and additional network services, as well as another $1 billion to connect more remote rural areas and Indigenous communities to the network.
In the same spirit, Videotron will have to offer packages whose prices are at least 20% lower than those of its competitors and spend 150 million over the next two years to update the Freedom Mobile network.
If the terms are breached, Rogers will pay a maximum of $1 billion in damages. The penalties could reach 200 million for Videotron if the latter does not respect its commitments.
Rogers’ profit of $511 million for its most recent quarter compared to a net profit of $392 million for the same period last year, when the company was still awaiting several approvals to close the deal, including the green light from the Bureau of competition, which vigorously opposed it.
The Toronto-based company’s earnings per share for the quarter ended March 31 were $1, up from 77 cents a year earlier.
“Rogers’ business is better executed today than it was when this transaction (with Shaw) was announced over two years ago, so we’re ready to move forward,” said argues Mr. Staffieri.
On an adjusted basis, net profit reached 553 million, which was 20% higher than 462 million in the previous first quarter. Adjusted earnings per share fell 91 cents to $1.09.
Analysts on average had expected a profit of $1.45 per share on an unadjusted basis and $1.01 on an adjusted basis, according to forecasts collected by financial data firm Refinitiv.
Quarterly revenue rose 6% to $3.8 billion from $3.6 billion in the first quarter of last year.
Rogers revenue was boosted by the net addition of 95,000 postpaid wireless subscribers, up 44% from 66,000 in the same period a year earlier.
The monthly churn rate for this service category was 0.79%, compared to 0.71% in the prior first quarter.
Rogers’ average revenue per subscriber was $57.26, which was 1 cent higher than the first quarter last year.