Bell launched its next-generation high-speed wireless network in areas of Toronto, Mississauga, Hamilton, Kitchener Waterloo and Guelph Wednesday.
The Ontario network, based on a technology called long-term evolution (LTE), "will deliver amazing data access speeds — at least three times faster than the Bell HSPA+ network originally launched less than three years ago," said Wade Oosterman, president of Bell Mobility in a statement ahead of Wednesday's launch.
The company said it expects typical speeds for the network to be between 12 and 25 megabits per second. Bell's HSPA+ network offers typical speeds of 3.5 to 8 megabits per second and 7 to 14 megabits per second in areas where it offers HSPA+ with dual carrier technology.
The company is referring to its LTE network as 4G, the same name it has been applying to its existing HSPA+ networks.
The first device able to use the new network will be the LTE Sierra Wireless U313 Turbo Stick, which went on sale at "select Bell stores" Wednesday. Bell said LTE-capable smartphones and tablets will be available later in the year.
Devices will switch to the next fastest speed available when outside LTE areas, Bell said. A news release claimed it is the "first and only Canadian 4G network" to allow that.
However, Rogers indicates on its website that its LTE users will also be able to connect with HSPA+ or EDGE technologies where there is no LTE coverage.
Rogers network launched its LTE network in Ottawa in July, and is currently the only other LTE provider in Canada other than Bell.
Rogers expects to launch LTE in Toronto at the end of September.
Bell said it will launch LTE in additional Canadian markets, starting with urban areas, later this year and through 2012.
It said the timing of its rollout in rural areas depends on the outcome of Industry Canada's 700 megahertz spectrum auction.
The 700 megahertz band of airwaves, formerly used by analog TV, was freed up when Canada made the switch to digital TV on Aug. 31. Bell and other large wireless carriers want to be able to bid in an open auction. However, there is a possibility that part of the spectrum could be set aside for newer wireless entrants to boost competition, as during a last auction that led to the launch of new wireless services from Wind Mobile, Mobilicity, Public Mobile and Vidéotron. Industry Canada has not yet indicated what rules it will set for the auction.