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Cable Tech

Rogers will shell out billions on reliability, AI tech in wake of outage

Canadian cable and mobile operator Rogers Communications is making a series of commitments, including a pledge to spend billions on enhanced reliability initiatives, in the wake of a massive outage on July 8 that also applied more heat to a proposed merger with Shaw Communications which remains in limbo.

Rogers President and CEO Tony Staffieri this week outlined a four-pronged plan to beef up network and service reliability roughly two weeks after the outage that affected millions of customers and paralyzed banking and emergency services.

The plan comes after the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) ordered Rogers to supply a detailed account of how and why the outage occurred and what measures Rogers will take to prevent future outages.

Here's how Rogers' "enhanced reliability plan" stacks up:

  • Rogers has made "meaningful progress" on a formal deal between carriers to switch emergency 911 calls to each other's networks automatically, according to Staffieri. That comes after Canadian Industry Minister François-Philippe Champagne ordered Rogers, BCE and Telus, the nation's top telecom providers, to work on such agreements.
  • The company pledged to "set a higher standard for reliability" by physically separating its wireless and Internet services, with the hope of establishing an "always on" network. Staffieri claimed that will "help make sure our customers don't experience an outage with both cellular and internet services again."
  • Rogers will invest CA$10 billion (US$7.75 billion) over the next three years in reliability, with an emphasis on oversight, more testing and increased use of artificial intelligence (AI). Staffieri didn't elaborate on how or to what extent AI will be used.
  • Rogers will also partner with "leading technology firms" to conduct a full review of its network so that Rogers can learn from the outage. The company will share the lessons learned, Staffieri wrote.

Toronto-based Rogers is beefing up reliability following a massive outage on July 8. 

(Source: Paul McKinnon/Alamy Stock Photo)
Toronto-based Rogers is beefing up reliability following a massive outage on July 8.
(Source: Paul McKinnon/Alamy Stock Photo)

Following the outage, Rogers is crediting customers with the equivalent of five days of service, with Scotiabank reportedly suggesting that it will cost Rogers between CA$65 million ($50 million) and CA$75 million ($58 million) in Q3.

Rogers has also responded to the CRTC's order seeking information about the outage. The operator told regulators that it was unable to switch customers to competing carriers during the outage despite the assistance from rival operators Bell and Telus.

Citing regulatory documents, news outlet CP24 reported that Rogers also told the commission that an outage of its core system made it impossible for the company to shut down its radio access network, which prevented most customers from automatically connecting to another carrier to complete 911 calls.

"While considered many times during the day, shutting down the (radio access network) was simply not a solution … The best and fastest way to restore 911 was to restore the network itself," Rogers told the CRTC.

Deal on hold

Regulatory scrutiny resulting from the outage is also an issue as the proposed CA$26 billion ($20.6 billion) merger between Rogers and Shaw remains on hold after being blocked by Canada's Competition Bureau, with a possibility that it might not be resolved for months.

To help address concerns about a merger's impact on the competitiveness of Canada's mobile sector, Rogers has agreed to sell Freedom Mobile, one of Shaw's cellular businesses, to Montreal-based Quebecor. But that agreement hasn't swayed things in Rogers' favor.

In testimony to the House of Commons on Monday, Staffieri tried to argue that a merger with fellow Canadian operator Shaw would improve network reliability as the combined company would be able to make greater investments in infrastructure than they could make alone.

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— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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