Bell Canada pauses 5G launch plan

Bell Canada put a commercial 5G launch on hold due to the Covid-19 (coronavirus) pandemic, but stood by capex allocated for the next-generation network despite declines in earnings during Q1.

During an earnings call, CEO Mirko Bibic said Bell Canada is “ready with our initial 5G network, but frankly we don’t think that it’s the right time right now to officially launch it”, with customers unlikely to be “paying attention” at this time.

He noted the Samsung Galaxy S20 was among several 5G devices lined up, and the operator would provide an update on a revised launch plan once the economy begins to reopen following lockdowns.

It withdrew its 2020 guidance due to the uncertainty caused by the outbreak, but Bibic and CFO Glen LeBlanc said plans to spend between CAD4 billion ($2.8 billion) and CAD4.1 billion on 5G upgrades and deployment of new fixed assets over the course of the year stood.

“This is not a time to pull back capital spending on critical network infrastructure. The country is depending on us,” Bibic said.

The operator named Nokia as a 5G equipment vendor in February.

Profit fell 7.3 per cent year-on-year to CAD733 million, with revenue of CAD5.68 billion down from CAD5.73 billion.

Wireless revenue was down 2 per cent to CAD2.03 billion, with service turnover flat at CAD1.54 billion and equipment 9.1 per cent lower at CAD488 million.

It added 19,595 mobile subscribers compared with 38,282 in Q1 2019.

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