Videotron will launch its LTE network “in the next few weeks” across Quebec, according to CEO Manon Brouillette. The company dished the news during its Q2 earnings call today, noting that it is in a good position to continue offering competitive province-wide wireless services.
The company noted revenues of $66.8 million from its wireless division, and netted 29,700 new customers for a total of 551,300.
While the subsidiary, which is owned by one of Quebec’s largest media companies, Quebecor, won’t comment on when it aims to launch a national wireless network, it noted that the launch of the iPhone had a positive impact on the company’s wireless revenue. Brouillette noted that iPhone users accounted for 22% of total activations, and their average ARPU amounted to $68, far higher than the company average. Considering Videotron only began selling the iPhone in late March, it shows there was pent-up demand for the products.
With the launch of an LTE network in Quebec, the question now turns to expansion beyond the Videotron’s home province. While Quebecor paid “bargain basement prices,” according to CEO, Pierre Dion, for seven licenses in the 700Mhz band, it has to determine whether to building out a network on its own or look for a financial partner. Dion said that one of Videotron’s options is to partner with a U.S. operator like Verizon to split the upfront costs of building a national network, or to purchase WIND or Mobilicity and use its existing infrastructure to fill the operational gaps while it uses the 700Mhz spectrum to build out a wider LTE network.
All these decisions hinge on what the CRTC plans to do with domestic roaming rates, which despite the decision announced today to prevent exclusivity clauses in such agreements, Quebecor claims are prohibitively expensive. “Before investing more we will work to ensure all conditions are right to minimize our risk,” said Dion during today’s earnings call. Other considerations are whether Quebecor will attempt to purchase set-aside spectrum in next year’s AWS-3 auction, which would necessitate a purchase of one of the two remaining new entrants.
“All options are on the table,” said Dion, but the window is quickly closing to choose which ones are best for the business.