Bell to provide free WiFi access in Montreal

Extrait de: Bell to provide free WiFi access in Montreal, Jamie Sturgeon, Financial Post,  Oct 19, 2011

Bell Mobility is erecting a wireless “hot spot” zone over one of Montreal’s most heavily trafficked boulevards, providing free mobile Internet access in the area.

Beyond being a positive gesture of civic engagement in a key market, Bell, which is collaborating with local business interests, will benefit in tangible ways from the new network.

The new local-area network, which sits at the heart of the city along Saint-Laurent Boulevard, will give all users 30 minutes of access a day free of charge letting commuters zip off emails from a smartphone, download music to a laptop or watch video on a tablet without having to use Bell or a rival carrier’s cellular network, which costs money.

Existing Bell wireless customers however are given unlimited access at no cost. For a carrier locked in an escalating territorial scrap with Quebecor Media Inc.’s cable-turned-wireless operator, Videotron Ltee., the network is perhaps a stake in the ground in the city’s core. Moreover, it is a useful “retention” tool that helps Bell keep customers satisfied, analysts say.

“It is a meaningful extension of services to our own customers,” said Almis Ledas, vice-president of corporate development at Bell Mobility.

The move is in line with broader strategies being pursued by other major Canadian telecommunications conglomerates now re-focusing efforts to own their major historical markets. In the Greater Toronto Area, Rogers Communications Inc. is making varying but concerted attempts to strengthen its grip over the region’s Internet, wireless and television markets.

Heightened wireless competition from new entrants like Videotron in Montreal and Wind Mobile in Toronto is a central cause, as incumbents Bell, Rogers and Telus Corp. manoeuvre to guard share from the smaller threats — and one another.

At a higher level, the move is a subtle attempt, analysts say, to promote mobile Internet use, a source of revenue Bell and every wireless carrier is banking on to offset declines in voice services. Once users leave the coverage area access to the free network is lost. And for those who have grown accustomed to the easy connectivity the next logical step is to seek out a wireless data subscription.

The announcement comes just ahead of earnings season for the country’s biggest mobile providers. Analysts expect Rogers, Bell and Telus to continue showing signs of pressure on their traditional voice revenues, ensuring each will continue to seek ways to raise mobile data consumption among customers.