Bell and Telus Move to GSM HSPA

No more guessing if or when – Bell Canada and Telus have announced that they will be rolling out a joint nationwide HSPA network in Canada, to be completed by early 2010 in time for the 2010 Winter Olympics in British Columbia. There are estimates that the cost of the joint venture network is in the half billion dollar range, which isn’t surprising, given that nearly a billion has been spent on the EV-DO network.

The HSPA migration will serve as a jumping off platform to 4G LTE, which both Bell and Telus are committed to. The existing CDMA EV-DO network will remain and will be maintained by both Bell and Telus. There are no plans as of yet to discontinue that network.

I’m really looking forward to some major competition for Rogers, even without the need for another entrant into the wireless market in Canada.

Bell’s press release

Telus’ press release

BCE Buyout Now Uncertain

There’s now a significant chance that the BCE privatization won’t happen under the initial terms. It was announced over the weekend that the lenders wanted to renegotiate the terms of the deal (higher interest rates, lower price). Then today, the Québec Court of Appeal overturned a previous ruling against the bondholders, taking the stock down more than 10%. All told, BCE stock is trading at almost a 25% discount to the original deal price. This is a big deal, as its shares are one of the most widely held by Canadians, making up part of countless RSPs and private investment portfolios.

Saving Money

I’ve taken a keen interest in financial planning, and what better way to get some experience with it than planning my own, personal finances? I’ve set myself the goal of being self-sufficient. My co-op terms make this goal quite possible, despite the regular plundering the University of Waterloo tuition performs on my bank account. I’ve been tracking my spending, prioritizing big purchases, and watching my co-op salary increase with each subsequent semester. But sometimes growing that top line just isn’t enough. Sometimes you just have to cut expenses.
So, I recently decided to start with one of the easier things to control, and with two quick phone calls, I saved nearly $400 per year on internet and cell phone expenses. It makes me cringe to think how much I’m spending to be able to save that amount.

The first call was to Rogers Wireless. I had read about a $20/month promotional plan that seemed to fit my calling patterns a bit better than the $30/month plan I had at the time. Most of my calls were made after 6pm, and most of them to other Rogers Wireless customers. Here’s what I had and what I switched to.

Previous:

  • 100 daytime minutes
  • Unlimited incoming
  • 1000 weekend/nights after 9pm
  • Unlimited Rogers to Rogers

Current:

  • 150 daytime minutes
  • 1000 weekend/nights after 6pm
  • Unlimited Rogers to Rogers

I tallied up my daytimes minutes for the past several months, and without the unlimited incoming feature, I realized I only make around 100 minutes of calls before 6pm. As a result, switching to the $20 plan wouldn’t affect my calling and I shouldn’t run into much if any overages. Unfortunately, I had to sign over another 3 years of my cellular life to Rogers, but hey, what other GSM choice do I really have?

I made another call today, this time to Bell Sympatico, regarding internet services. I’d been reading about TekSavvy, a regional ISP that delivers DSL server over Bell’s network. Their $29.95/month plan is much cheaper than the almost $50/month I’d been paying Bell to deliver essentially the same service. I initially called to cancel the Bell service to switch over to TekSavvy, but the customer service representative presented me an offer I couldn’t refuse – unlimited downloads/uploads and $29.95/month for a year.

The rep wanted to offer me the $29.95/month offer for 6 months only, and had to move me to a new plan, that included a 60GB download/upload cap. When I signed the initial contract with Bell Sympatico, it was still in the heydays of truly unlimited line usage. Even back then, they were one of the only providers to not cap usage, and shortly afterwards, they did move to a capped service. However, I reasoned with the representative and was able to renew my grandfathered plan for another year, all at the lower price.

With the two recurring expenses reduced, I’ll be saving just about $400 per year, after accounting for taxes. It gives me a warm fuzzy feeling inside. I can now look at buying a replacement for my (still) broken Sony Ericsson K790a (that’s another story for another time) without feeling more guilty.

Oh wait, I thought the whole point was to save money…

I Only Realized It Today

I was trading emails back and forth with someone at the office today, discussing my choice of co-op jobs. It was during that exchange that I realized I was really unhappy with the position I held last semester at Bell Mobility. At the time, I was caught up in it and only now, after about 5 months, have I really thought about the experience.

I was rather surprised when I was offered the position of Strategy and Planning Analyst. I had grand visions of proposing changes at Bell Mobility. They ranged anywhere from being an innovator in the field to splitting Mobility from the rest of Bell Canada to increase autonomy and shareholder value. Of course I hardly mentioned any of these ideas at all (especially not the latter one). After all, I was merely a co-op and what would Michael Sabia (CEO) be doing, listening to a co-op when there were 20,000 other employees with ideas as well.

I was fairly content with doing ‘strategy and planning’. I was one of the first University of Waterloo co-op student that department had hired and I had the feeling that they weren’t quite certain what to do with me. In the end, I was tasked with creating a technical document on the current state of the wireless industry and future projections. It seemed to me like a make-work project; I figured the Product Managers would know their services inside out. What information was I supposed to provide them? I, along with the other co-op working with me, met with our supervisor and other managers several times to get an idea of what we could put in it that wouldn’t be a complete rehash of existing knowledge. No one really gave us a clear picture, but we set to work anyways.

It involved a hell of a lot of learning. I became quite enamored with wireless technologies and of all the things at Bell Mobility, that has stuck with me the most. I spent countless hours reading research paper after research paper, analyst opinion after analyst opinion. I helped put together a nearly 100 page research paper on the state of the wireless industry in Canada and various technologies that were in the field or had the potential to enter the field. I incorporated roadmaps, ideas for implementation, and possible new services. I poured a lot of effort into that job.

In a way, I guess I should thank my Dad. He told me many times not to get my hopes up about enacting changes in the company. Companies like Bell Canada are lumbering machines – it’s very difficult to change course. You might be able to nudge it a little, but if you try to turn it too quickly, it’ll flip. And you don’t want to flip because you might never get back upright again. But I still held an idealistic view in the back of my mind.

I finished the project without much time to spare. That’s the thing with research, you have to set a cutoff point. Otherwise you’ll go forever. I doubt a single person there read the report. I’m not even sure if anyone other than my manager even glanced at it. I lacked any sense of accomplishment, despite passing in a substantial report. The information provided was completely factual and I thought the ideas presented had potential, but the probability that it would get shoved under a stack of papers was quite high. That was the sort of job I didn’t want to do ever again.

And here we are with at least three different private equity groups circling Bell Canada. They’re going to undergo some major changes one way or another. If they do get privatized, you can be sure they’ll chop off a lot of excess fat. If they don’t, the stock price is going to plunge and shareholders are going to be up in arms for some change.

Maybe someone will even find my report when they go through the papers…