Originally published by The Winnipeg Free Press
Author: Martin Cash
Sometime this fall, Manitoba will have a fourth wireless competitor in the market, and it will be called Xplore Mobile.
A division of the national fixed wireless network operator Xplornet Communications Inc., it was conceived as a condition for Bell’s acquisition of MTS that closed in March 2017.
Wednesday’s announcement marked the official launch of the brand, but the company has been engaged in some guerrilla marketing of sorts for the past few weeks, operating pop-up retail stores in Winnipeg Square and Shoppers Mall in Brandon, whose signage only included a big letter X.
Xplornet, billed as Canada’s leading rural broadband Internet provider specializing in fixed wireless broadband service, acquired 24,700 former Bell MTS wireless subscribers as part of the Competition Bureau’s terms that sanctioned Bell’s purchase of MTS.
By mandating its launch in Manitoba, national regulators were ensuring it would serve as a fourth competitor in the Manitoba market to the big three of Bell, Rogers and Telus.
Sebastien Bouchard, a spokesman for the company, said current Bell MTS wireless customers transitioning to Xplore Mobile have not yet been notified.
“New customers will get proper notification,” Bouchard said, noting there will be no disruption of service, and customers will be able to keep their existing number. “There will be different stages, multiple communications. They will not all be transferred on day 1. There will be a transition process in place.”
A spokeswoman for Bell MTS said, “We will work closely with Xplore Mobile to ensure the best possible experience for all customers.”
New Xplore Mobile customers will go through a similar process which about 100,000 former Bell MTS wireless customers went through about a year ago to transfer to Telus. That transfer was also part of the Competition Bureau’s condition for signing off on the Bell-MTS deal.
The Xplore Mobile name and marketing campaign signals a significant push for the privately-held New Brunswick company’s first foray into the highly competitive wireless business. On Wednesday, the company also announced it would be spending about $100 million setting up its business in Manitoba.
“We are building a brand new network in Manitoba. We intend to be everywhere MTS was,” Bouchard said. “Manitoba is a very interesting market. We are looking to test a number of things. There are lots of exciting announcements coming. This is step No. 1. There is definitely more to come.”
The company already has 100 employees in offices in Winnipeg and Brandon, and interviews ware taking place this week to fill another 35 positions right away. In addition to network and customer support, the company will also be opening six retail locations.
Bouchard said Xplore Mobile will have a wide range of handheld devices available, and will give new customers the opportunity to transfer their current devices. But, he would not provide any details on pricing or the packaging of service offerings.
“All I can say at this point, is that the wireless business is very competitive and we will be competitive,” he said.
Xplore Mobile’s marketing launch came the same day that Shaw Communications’ wireless operation, Freedom Mobile, launched a new advertising campaign highlighting how its customers can get more value through Freedom Mobile. That company serves as the fourth competitor in Alberta, Ontario and British Columbia and into parts of Quebec and the Maritimes. But not in Manitoba.
Xplornet has been in business since 2004, and has more than 330,000 fixed wireless broadband customers in every province and territory in the country. Since it is privately owned — headquartered in New Brunswick with executive offices in Markham, Ont. — and plays outside the high-profile competitive urban markets, it has flown below the radar.