Bell says ultra-fast internet download speeds of close to a gigabit per second are now available to more than a million homes in Ontario and Quebec.

Bell launched its Gigabit Fibe service Monday, offering download speeds of up to 940 megabits per second. That's fast enough to download a 3 GB HD movie in just 25 seconds, the company says.

It's considerably faster than the current top download speeds for major internet service providers in Canada, which top out at 100 to 250 megabits per second. Previously, Bell's top speed on offer was 175 megabits per second.

"People always want to do things quicker," said Rizwan Jamal, president of Bell residential services. "As applications continue to grow, I think you'll find that speeds will become more and more important," he added, noting that ultra-high-definition 4K video is becoming more available, as is downloading entire TV series at once for the purpose of binge-watching.

The company is charging $150 a month, but offering cheaper promotions for customers that also pay for its Fibe TV service.


Fibre optic cables carry data in the form of pulses of light passed along glass strands, instead of shooting electrical signals along a copper wire. (CBC)

Jamal said he thinks the company has made the service affordable and doesn't consider it a luxury service.

"We're actually targeting everyone."

At launch, Gigabit Fibe is available to 1.3 million households in Quebec City and parts of Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa and many smaller communities, including:

  • In Ontario: Brampton, Kingston, Kitchener-Waterloo, Milton and Peterborough.
  • In Quebec: Beloeil, Blainville, Chambly, Châteauguay, Gatineau, Joliette, La Prairie, Laval, Lévis, Magog, Repentigny, Saint-Constant, Saint-Eustache, Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Saint-Jérôme, Saint-Luc, Sherbrooke, Salaberry-de-Valleyfield, Sorel-Tracy, Terrebonne and Vaudreuil-Dorion.

The maximum upload speed for the Gigabit Fibe service is a fraction of the download speed it offers — just 100 megabits per second.

Jamal said the company's product team felt that "was very competitive and it really met the need of the market at this time," but Bell has the ability boost upload speeds in the future.

Bell says Gigabit Fibe will be available in the Atlantic provinces and other communities in Quebec and Ontario this fall — about 2.2 million homes in all, and that available speeds will increase to over 1,000 megabits per second (one gigabit) in 2016.

The company had previously announced it was investing $1.14 billion in Toronto alone to connect homes there with fibre internet, which is faster than existing cable or DSL connections.

Bell says the expansion of its fibre network has been driven by consumer demand and supported by municipalities in providing assistance such as permits.

While some smaller internet service providers have already been offering fibre internet speeds to thousands of local customers in places such as Olds, Alta.,  Bracebridge, Ont. and parts of Vancouver, Bell is the first major internet service provider to make the service more widely available.

It is also charging higher prices for standalone internet service. For gigabit internet, Vancouver's Urban Fibre charges $69, Bracebridge, Ont.-based Lakeland Networks charges $70, comparable to Google Fiber in the U.S. (although Google's pricing is in U.S. dollars). Municipally owned O-net in Olds, Alta., charges $120 per month. Those services also come with upload speeds of a gigabit per second, 10 times the upload speed offered by Bell.

Adrian Chung, an account director at market research firm J.D. Power and Associates, has surveyed Canadian internet users about satisfaction with their internet service providers, and found that speed and reliability top consumers' concerns.

He thinks Bell knows its market.

"When a new technology comes to the forefront, there's going to be the early adopters who are willing to pay a premium," he said.

He added that Bell's ability to be the first major ISP to bring this kind of service to market could cause more people to consider the brand.

"Just in general, it's likely a big deal, given that it sets a lot of infrastructure up for the future."​