04/17/2014 10:10 EDT | Updated 06/17/2014 05:59 EDT

Rogers starts turning on 700 MHz wireless spectrum

Starting today, Rogers customers should be able to get cellphone service in basements and elevators in some areas of Vancouver, Toronto and Calgary, the company says.

Rogers announced Thursday it had started deploying the 700-megahertz spectrum that it won in a federal auction in February. The company will be rolling out the spectrum gradually on its high-speed LTE network across the country, in both urban and rural areas.

The federal government earned $5.27 billion from the auction of 97 licences for the coveted 700-megahertz spectrum, which was previously used for over-the-air analog TV signals. The results of the auction were announced on Feb. 19.

Compared to frequencies used for wireless service up until now, the frequencies in the 700-megahertz band can:

- Penetrate more deeply through concrete walls into places such as elevators, basements and parking garages that signals from other wireless frequencies have trouble reaching.

- Transmit data over longer distances while requiring fewer towers.

Overall, that is expected to result in stronger signals.

"With our beachfront spectrum, we'll deliver the ultimate mobile video experience to our customers in even more places where they couldn't access LTE before," said John Boynton, executive vice-president and chief marketing officer at Rogers Communications.

Rogers paid $3.3 billion for its share of the new licences. Telus bought $1.1 billion worth and Bell $565 million. The remainder went to Videotron, EastLink, MTS, Feenix, and Sasktel. Rogers is the first company to deploy the new spectrum.