Quebecor to spend up to C$1 bln on wireless network

TORONTO Wed Oct 22, 2008 11:13am EDT

TORONTO (Reuters) - Canadian media and publishing group Quebecor Inc confirmed on Wednesday it will spend as much as C$1 billion ($800 million) over four years to roll out a wireless network to compete against the country's Big Three mobile phone companies.

The company said its new high-speed packet access network should be up and running in 12 to 18 months. Quebecor first outlined its plans to spend between C$800 million and C$1 billion on the network in September.

"The projected expenditure includes the cost of acquiring spectrum and operating licenses, building out the network and initial operating costs," the company said on Wednesday.

It added the project will create about 1,000 jobs at its Videotron unit over the next two years.

Quebecor also said it has chosen Nokia Siemens Networks as its supplier for building the network.

There has been widespread speculation among investors and analysts that Quebecor could partner with another newcomer to Canada's wireless market to create a fourth national wireless carrier.

Three providers -- BCE Inc, Telus Corp and Rogers Communications Inc -- now dominate the Canadian wireless landscape.

One potential partner for Quebecor is privately held Globalive Communications Corp, which has secured spectrum across Canada except in the province of Quebec.

Globalive Chief Executive Anthony Lacavera has said the company is ready to reach out to "everyone" regarding potential partnerships.

Lacavera also told Reuters earlier this month his company continues to target 1.5 million customers in its first three years of operations and plans to launch service next year, despite the credit crisis that some analysts said could delay new wireless startups.

Quebecor's shares were down 82 Canadian cents at C$20.49 on the Toronto Stock Exchange on Wednesday morning.

($1=$1.25 Canadian)

(Reporting by Wojtek Dabrowski; editing by Peter Galloway)