Cable Tech

Bell Canada back in black as revenues hit pre-pandemic levels

Bell Canada's total revenue and adjusted EBITDA have returned to pre-pandemic Q3 2019 levels, according to Mirko Bibic, president and CEO of the Canadian cable operator.

The carrier's consolidated service revenue "is up 3.6% and EBITDA 4.2% higher than last year, despite ongoing COVID-related headwinds affecting wireless roaming, business wireline customer spending and media advertising," said Bibic in a financial call with analysts this week.

Net earnings for Bell Canada are also up nearly 10% to $813 million for Q3.

In addition, Bell Canada is on schedule to meet its network expansion goals for 2021, said Bibic, and has invested $1.2 billion in new capital in the third quarter. That's 12% more year-over-year spending on direct fiber and fixed wireless connections, and the operator is expanding mobile 5G coverage and deploying 3.5 gigahertz capable radios in preparation for its goal of launching 5G coverage to over 70% of Canada's population by the end of 2022. Bell Canada deployed fiber Internet to 52 smaller communities in Manitoba, Ontario, Québec and the Atlantic provinces and Bell 5G in several provinces this quarter.

During the third quarter, Bell Canada tallied 266,919 total wireless mobile phone, mobile-connected devices, retail Internet and IPTV net subscriber additions, which marks a 10% yearly increase. The carrier said it had 136,464 mobile phone net subscriber activations with 115,000 new net postpaid mobile phone subscribers, with postpaid subscriptions up 46%.

Bell Canada also marked its lowest postpaid churn during the third quarter: 0.93%. The company brought in 33,000 new IoT subscriptions, and 22,000 new prepaid mobile device customers, "which is our best quarterly result in the past year," added Bibic. Wireless service revenue in Q3 increased 5%, delivering a 2.3% higher ARPU.

Three Bell Canada payphones in Toronto, June 2012. Photo by: Norman Pogson / Alamy Stock Photo.

Three Bell Canada payphones in Toronto, June 2012. Photo by: Norman Pogson / Alamy Stock Photo.

Despite a 25% reduction in wireless services pricing since September 2019, and overall inflation in the Canadian market, Bell Canada's Bell Wireline service continues to expand, said Bibic.

"Turning to wireline, again, really a very strong quarter from an RGU [revenue generating unit] perspective with 34,000 new net retail customer additions, more than 2.5x higher than last year," said Bibic.

Bell Internet brought in 66,000 retail net customer additions, a 5% increase over Q3 2020. Subscriptions for Crave, Bell Canada's streaming TV platform, also increased 5% over last year, and subscriptions to direct streaming platforms grew 33%. This, in combination with the operator's CTV AVOD product and expansion of its SAM TV sales tool, brought digital revenue growth up 32% in Q3.

Bell Canada is also banking on projected increases in digital ad spending in Canada on Internet and social media platforms; the company said 22% of its Bell Media revenue were from digital media. Overall, media revenue was up nearly 15%.

However, product revenue took a hit, dropping nearly 14% YOY as a result of "lower upgrade volumes and a greater mix of Bring Your Own Device customers," explained Glen LeBlanc, CFO for Bell Canada, during the earnings call. LeBlanc partly blamed "global supply chain handset constraints" for the drop.

Bell Canada also has its sights set on reducing greenhouse emissions in accordance with the Paris Climate Agreement; on World Climate Action Day on October 15, the network operator said it has saved 71 kilotons of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions since 2008 and purchased 175 electric vehicles, which will be in operation by the end of 2021.

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