Canadian mobile and cable giant pushes investment in HSPA
and fixed broadband
Edward Rogers: HSPA at 7.2 megabits but five cities
megabits, extending to 93% of Canada by the end of
Unless you’ve been following the Canadian cable
industry, Rogers Communications is not a company
you’ll have been familiar with — until
the last couple of years, when the company has started to take
a much more outgoing international stance.
But at home in Canada, Rogers is one of the dominant cable
companies, in a country where cable has long been part of most
families’ home entertainment spending. And
it’s developed from there to become one of the
leading mobile operators — as well as a significant
provider of fixed broadband.
"Canada has always had an appetite for data. The consumption
is higher than in many other countries," says Edward Rogers,
vice chairman of the company.
The name is not a coincidence: he is the grandson of the
founder, also Edward, and son of Ted Rogers, who built up the
company and led it until his death at the age of 75 in December
"My father was an early adopter of the idea of giving
customers value in cable TV, internet and wireless," says the
youngest Rogers, who was 40 in 2009. The company combined all
three services in one bill. "It adds up to giving people more
value," he says.
The formula has been successful. "We are known as a growth
company," he notes, "with a stock that is higher than that of
telecoms companies". The company has "never been afraid to make
the investments we need to".
Cable is a business that people have claimed to be mature
— especially with digital satellite services started
delivering multiple channels direct into people’s
homes. "Rogers has shown that there was some great growth
opportunities. We have been able to continue to grow the
television business even though there are more choices for
The company dates back to Toronto’s oldest
radio broadcaster, a station founded by the elder Edward Rogers
— also a technological innovator — back in
1927: it’s still in operation, as a rolling news
service, though has not been part of the group for many
Today most of Rogers Communications’ business
is mobile, with cable television accounting for 30-35% and
media — including publishing interests —
"closer to 5%", says Rogers.
"All our businesses are competitive, and we have introduced
new choices." Though there are three main mobile operators in
Canada — with Telus and Bell Canada also in the market
— there are also regional players and a multiplicity
of brands from some operators. "We see eight or nine
competitors in all," he notes.
But the company had a significant advantage in mobile: it
was the only national GSM player in the 2G days, when both Bell
Canada and Telus were CDMA operators, meaning they did not make
revenue from international travellers visiting Canada with
their GSM phones.
The company has used that GSM head-start in its 3G
development. "We offer 7.2 megabits a second on HSPA," says
Rogers. "But five cities are already on 21 megabits, and
we’ll extend that to 93% of the population by the
end of 2010." The company announced a supply deal with Ericsson
as long ago as 2005.
That means that Rogers Communications has one of the fastest
HSPA networks in operation — running speeds
significantly faster than some of its rivals south of the
border with the US.
"In terms of broadband penetration Canada is up with the
rest of the world," says Rogers. Are he and his senior
colleagues thinking of LTE, the next evolutionary stage for the
GSM family in wireless broadband? "We continue to look at
that," he says in a non-committal way. "We’re
continuing to push HSPA across the country."
LTE will have strengths in "the number of simultaneous
users", he notes. However "HSPA still has a lot of legs".
Speeds are even faster on the group’s cable
networks, where it offers 100 megabits or more. "We provide
cable to 30% of the households in Canada and we’re
the best choice for internet connectivity," he says. "We want
to continue to make investments in that area."
In some parts of Canada — he says almost with a
note of regret — there is no cable, and that is where
Rogers is promoting its HSPA services most, mainly through
selling USB plug-in data terminals for PCs and laptops.
The company has worked with a Manitoba regional operator,
MTS Allstream, on 3G network sharing. "If we can share costs,
we’ll do so."
As well as being deputy chairman, Rogers is vice president
for emerging business, so he is continually looking at new
opportunities for the group that his father built up. "We are
growing well, with double-digit revenue growth," he says. "When
you’re growing you focus on new business a bit
But the company has always taken a bold attitude to growth
opportunities. "Look at the networks out there," he says.
"There are some new businesses to get into. The challenge is to
show that there is growth."
The group is investing in new areas, says Rogers, "but those
are things that I can’t share with you". However,
they promise "decent new growth over the next few years".
At some stages in its history the group has had investments
outside Canada — including cable operations in the US
and in Ireland — but they were sold "and we continue
to concentrate on Canada", he says. There are plenty of growth
opportunities at home, particularly in cable and media
— the group is a major publisher of magazines,
including Canadian Business and Maclean’s, as well
as the local version of Hello! And it has a number of TV
"We wouldn’t say no to international
operations, but in 2010 we will concentrate on businesses in
Canada," he says.
The group does have an international presence, though, with
its carrier business — which sells its services to
global operators that want to terminate voice and data in
Canada. "We’ve got great fibre assets across
Canada," he says. And the company owns fibre in the US.
"Rogers is in that space. It’s a great choice
to do business with in Canada. It’s a growing
space for us, though small in comparison with the entire
company. We’ve got some fabulous people."
One of the areas that Rogers as deputy chairman focuses on
is the group’s corporate social responsibility
programme. "For many years, when we didn’t make
much money and we were a capital intensive business our efforts
concentrated on putting cable in the classroom and providing
free services to various charities," he says.
Now the business has turned round. "We’re
making money and we can put more cash into charities," says
Rogers. "We all feel that it’s something we should
do more of. We try to do our part as corporate citizens."
The company responded quickly to the Haiti earthquake in
mid-January 2010, by making a cash gift of a quarter of a
million dollars. "We also set up a text-to-give service.
Customers can send a text to a particular number to make their
donation. Customers have been very generous and raised many
hundreds of thousands of dollars."
The text-to-give service was already in place, ready to be
activated when necessary. "The money gets put on
customers’ bills. It all goes to charity," says
Rogers. "Everyone tries to do their best. It’s
great to see how people have risen to the challenge."
Deputy chairman of Rogers Communications and executive VP
for emerging business and corporate development
After graduating from the University of Western Ontario, he
spent 2½ years with Comcast in the US, working in sales,
marketing, new product development and strategic planning, and
then returned to Canada as director of sales for Rogers
VP and general manager of paging, data and emerging
technologies for Rogers Wireless
VP and general manager of the Toronto region of Rogers
Cable, representing 850,000 customers
Senior VP for planning and strategy at Rogers
President and CEO of Rogers Cable
Edward Rogers III is the son of Ted Rogers, who died in
2008, and grandson of Edward Rogers, the company founder