Bell Canada invests $922M to build out 1 Gbps services in Toronto

Bell Canada is jumping into the 1 Gbps fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) craze with plans to launch service in the Toronto market as part of a $922 million investment in its last mile network.

The new FTTH network will ultimately serve 1.1 million Toronto homes and businesses, with 50,000 premises set to get the service this summer.

Similar to deployments taking place in the United States, Bell also is working in tandem with local electric utility Toronto Hydro to get access to necessary rights-of-way along existing aerial poles to string the fiber cables.

Bell said in a release that by establishing long-term agreements with Toronto Hydro are "accelerating the Gigabit Fibe project's efficiency and speeding up deployment."

Upon completion of the buildout, the service provider said it will have upgraded 27 Bell Central Office facilities across the city and installed over 9,000 km of new fiber, both underground via more than 10,000 manholes and on approximately 80,000 Bell and Toronto Hydro utility poles around the city. Nearly 70 percent of the network will be aerial and 30 percent will be underground.

Bell's service will initially be available at a maximum of 940 Mbps and will rise to a full 1 Gbps or faster in 2016 as modem equipment vendors make gear that can support gigabit speeds.

Toronto is just one of a number of markets where Bell Canada plans to deliver the service. Other cities that are set to get the 1 Gbps service include Ontario, Québec and Atlantic Canada.

Taking page from the Google Fiber (NASDAQ: GOOG) playbook, Bell is building the Gigabit Fibe service on a neighborhood-by-neighborhood basis and will advise residents in advance if Bell crews may need to access their property.

Part of Bell's 1 Gbps buildout will also contribute services to the United Way Toronto Community Hub initiative where it will contribute Gigabit Fibe service to each the charity's citywide Community Hubs initiative, including Access Point on the Danforth, Bathurst-Finch, Dorset Park, Jane Street, Mid-Scarborough, Rexdale Community Hub, Victoria Park Hub, and the planned Bridletowne Neighborhood Centre serving the Steeles L'Amoreaux community.

The 1 Gbps rollout is part of a broader plan by Bell to invest $20 billion across the territories it serves in Canada from 2015 to the end of 2020 to continue expanding its broadband fiber and 4G LTE wireless networks.

George Cope, president and CEO of BCE, said during its first quarter earnings call that it would continue to expand its IPTV and FTTP in the regions it serves.

"Approximately 2 million plus of our homes of course are fiber directly right to the premises, and we will continue to do two things, one, grow the IPTV footprint and the fiber footprint, and also continue to overlay, where we have fiber-to-the-node," Cope said.

For more:
- see the release

Related articles:
Canada's CRTC to measure consumer broadband speeds
Telus' Entwistle: We're going directly to the premises with fiber
Bell Canada tells CRTC to not force it to share last mile fiber
Bell Canada's Fibe TV footprint reaches 4.6M households, but cable competition narrows sub increase
BCE takes Bell Aliant subsidiary private, plans to continue fiber-based broadband push