Bell's Race for Your Time

September 25, 2017 Ophelie Zalcmanis-Lai

Bell is literally in one of its biggest battles for your time.

Ever see those Bell guys tearing up your sidewalk or get a notice that every unit in your condo is to be outfitted with new cables?

Well, it’s all a part of Bell’s aggressive $1.1 billion project “to upgrade all homes and businesses in Toronto from old copper telephone wires – in place since the 1880s – to fibre-optic cables.”

That’s a lot of money and a lot of kilometres covered. In fact, The Globe and Mail states that by the end of the project, Bell will have put down over 9,000 km of the cables.

BCE chief executive said that “this is really a complete rebuild,” in the same Globe and Mail report.

So why all the blood, sweat, tears and dollars? Because Bell is in a race to keep up with competitors who are offering faster network service in an age where high bandwidth capacity is necessary to offer the fastest service, streaming and connectivity.

Essentially, Bell is looking for a direct line into people’s homes and ultimately, their time.

This is what captured our minutes this week.

Here’s why this battle matters:

1. Bell is recognizing just how much time is money.

And unfortunately, the brand just isn’t cutting through the clutter.  

For the gigabit speeds that Rogers is offering, Bell caps at around 100 megabits a second – this is a tenth of the speed offered by Rogers.

As customers are inundated daily with new TV, phone and internet packages, they start to make it very simple for themselves in the selection process. Whichever brand offers the most, the fastest and at a competitive price wins.

The problem is, as The Globe and Mail’s report on Bell’s rewiring aptly points out, customers don’t even know how much speed they’ll need in the future as their data consumption habits change.

So, in this Battle for Time, Bell is choosing to rewire the systems to work for its present and future needs.

Though it’s a costly endeavour, and one that is tough for investors who won’t see immediate pay off especially as the construction will take several years to complete, it’s worth it for this telecom brand.

As demands of audiences grow, brands have two options:

Add on, piece-meal.


Rebuild for the ground up, planning with the future in mind.  

If resources are available, we suggest the latter for the way that builds a malleable brand – one that is ready to accommodate all scales of changes.

2. Bell is solidifying its opportunities everywhere, simultaneously.

Speaking of building for the future, Bell is literally building its way into every household. Even if that household is Rogers.

By re-doing the entire system, instead of simply changing its offering alone, Bell is making huge strides in making direct connections with its customers.

Again, it’s no cheap feat. It’s a lot of money, even for a brand like Bell. Yet by making itself readily available for connectivity no matter the location (at least in Toronto), Bell is making it that much easier for customers to join its ranks.

It doesn’t require any extra effort for the customer. The service is simply ready for them.

And if they choose not to go with it, then oh well. Maybe their neighbour will.

Customers don’t want to have to put in extra effort. They’ve already got enough to choose from and to work on in their daily lives. So Bell is uncomplicating just this small part for them. No hiccups. Just the service, right away.

Talk about a (theoretically) seamless experience.

3. It highlights the shift in demand of telecommunications within society as a whole.

Bell simply can’t afford to not understand how people are using technology.

Thankfully it does. It knows that people are forgoing their landlines for 100% mobile use. It also realizes that cable TV is being swallowed up by streaming services like Netflix, which require a strong internet connection.

On top of that all, people want more data, faster and for a better price.

This isn’t new news to just about anyone, brand or customer. But it highlights how service providers like Bell, Rogers, etc. will have to adjust their offerings in the years to come.

Peoples’ preferences and demands upon service change nearly daily. With Internet traffic set to be 127 times what it was in 2005 in just 4 short years, it’s imperative that brands like Bell begin to rethink the system.

While it’s hard to exactly predict what will happen there are a few steady trends to consider:

  • Spending on wireline is growing yearly

  • People have more and more devices using the network

  • Speeds are constantly having to be updated to respond adequately to people’s needs

Needless to say, it’ll be interesting to watch what happens in the future. Which happens to be starting today.

As Bell races to finish its installations before its competitors outmanoeuver it, the odds in the Battle for Time shift to those who can adapt the system fast enough to win audiences’ time.  

At the end of the day, people engage with content by lending their minutes. Content is successful when its battery is fully charged with attention.

What will win this week?

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The Battle for Time - Week of September 17.