Bell Canada announced plans to invest up to CAD1.2 billion ($934.7 million) to improve its networks over the next two years, setting initial goals to double 5G coverage and expand its fiber offering to 900,000 new locations in 2021.

The operator said CAD700 million of the total will be invested in 2021, adding to its regular annual capex of approximately CAD4 billion. This additional investment in network infrastructure will be funded by proceeds from the sale of Bell data centers in 2020.

“Our success in 2021 will continue to be anchored to the priorities we set in 2020. They center on increased investment on core network infrastructure that will lay the foundation for future broadband internet and 5G growth; improving the end-to-end customer experience; the ongoing digital transformation of our operations and a continued sharp focus on our cost structure,” said Mirko Bibic, Bell’s president and CEO, said during a conference call with investors.

“We will accelerate capital spending in 2021 to forge ahead even more aggressively on our successful broadband strategy, expanding our all fiber connections, opening up wireless home internet to even more rural communities and building our wireless 5G network faster.”

Bell announced the launch of its commercial 5G service in the country last June. The carrier’s 5G service was initially available in Montréal, the Greater Toronto Area, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver.

In 2020, Bell Canada selected Ericsson 5G Radio Access Network (RAN) technology to support its nationwide 5G mobile and fixed wireless access deployment. The carrier started the construction of its 5G network last year, using equipment from Finnish vendor Nokia.

Bibic said that the company’s accelerated capital plan will double the reach of its national 5G network to 50%. During the call, the executive also noted that Bell had selected Nordic vendors Ericsson and Nokia as the suppliers of the carrier’s 5G standalone network.

Bell Canada’s net income in the last quarter of the year grew 28.9% year-on-year to CAD932 million, while revenue declined 2.8% to CAD6.1 billion, chiefly due to impacts from Covid-19 on consumer and commercial activity.

In the mobile segment, revenue declined by 1.9% year-on-year to CAD2.4 million, comprised of service revenue of CAD1.6 million, which were down 2.5 per cent compared to the year-ago period and equipment sales of CAD854 million, flat year-on-year.

Bell added 81,256 mobile subscribers in the fourth quarter of 2020, down from 121,599 in Q4 2019.

“2021 will be a reset year, as we transition towards a return to pre-pandemic levels of financial performance and operating momentum. We can’t accurately predict the path and pace of economic recovery, but we know that our business is solid and we expect to see progressive improvement through the year, much as we did after coming out of Q2 2020. As a result, we remain cautiously optimistic about our business outlook,” Bibic said.


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