|Manitoba Government Telephones (1905-1921)
Manitoba Telephone System (1921-2004)
Manitoba Telecom Services (2004-2017)
|Dan McKeen (CEO)|
|Revenue||$1.704 billion CAD (2013)|
|$242.2 million CAD (2013)|
|$84.4 million CAD (2013)|
Number of employees
Bell MTS (formerly Manitoba Telecom Services) is a subsidiary of BCE Inc. that operates telecommunications services in the Canadian province of Manitoba. The company's head office is located in MTS Place on Main Street, in Downtown Winnipeg, Manitoba.
MTS is the descendant company of Manitoba Government Telephones, which went into operation in January 1908 after the government of Manitoba bought Bell Canada's Manitoba operations. The Crown corporation became Manitoba Telephone System in 1921, and eventually absorbed all private telephone operations in the province. In 1996, the Provincial government of Premier Gary Filmon decided to sell the Manitoba Telephone System to private shareholders. The decision to privatize was seen as controversial, as it marked a significant departure from the Progressive Conservatives' earlier position that MTS should remain provincially owned.
BCE acquired MTS on March 17, 2017 for $3.9 billion. As part of the sale, Bell promised that it would invest $1 billion over the next five years into upgrading the MTS infrastructure to support new and upgraded services. For regulatory reasons, Bell will divest approximately a third of MTS's wireless business (including subscribers and retail outlets) to Telus, and a smaller portion to the new entrant Xplornet. Under Bell ownership, Bell MTS will serve as the headquarters of Bell's telecom businesses in Western Canada.
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Also in the late 1950s, MTS located one of its administrative offices on Empress St. near the newly opened Polo Park Shopping Centre complex. In 2001 these employees were moved to 333 Main St., commonly known as MTS Place, where 1200 employees now work. This formed part of the Province's Downtown First strategy.
In the late 1970s, similar to policy changes implemented by AT&T in the U.S., MTS allowed its customers to purchase their own telephone equipment and with this, provided free installation of RJ11 telephone jacks.
In the Spring of 1979, MTS announced that it would be a pioneer in Telidon-based two-way electronic information services. The trial was called "Project IDA" and ran from 1980 to 1981.
MTS was a pioneer in offering videotex at the commercial level. In 1981, it partnered with Infomart (then owned by the Torstar and Southam newspaper chains) to create the Grassroots service, providing information relevant to farmers on the Canadian prairies. Customers paid $47.50 per month to subscribe to Grassroots, plus connection fees to DATAPAC. Terminal equipment was manufactured by Norpak.
They opened MTS Phone Centre stores in shopping malls to sell residential and business phones and services, and in 1984 opened two MTS Business Centre locations (Commodity Exchange Tower lobby and Empress St. office) to provide sales of business-level equipment.
In the mid-1980s, MTS started a subsidiary known as MTX, which had invested in telecommunications in Saudi Arabia. However MTX was forced to shut down after controversy about the company back in Manitoba after MTX lost $27 million on the venture.
In the late 1980s MTS launched MTS Mobility providing cellular and paging services in Manitoba.
In 1996 in a controversial decision, the Provincial government decided to sell the Manitoba Telephone System to private shareholders. The vote to privatize MTS was held in early December 1996.
In January 1999 MTS partnered with Bell Canada to form Intrigna, a Competitive Local Exchange Carrier (CLEC) which was created to expand telecommunications options for the business market in Alberta and British Columbia. As part of the deal, Bell Canada gained 20% ownership of MTS. They set up a jointly operated office in Calgary. By the summer of 1999, fibre optic cable had been laid in Edmonton and Calgary, and later extended to Vancouver.
The CRTC met with the various telecommunications providers in Canada and required of them to implement a Service Improvement Plan (SIP). This meant that MTS had to improve service to northern remote areas that even by the 21st century had poor quality phone service. Customers in northern Manitoba complained that the microwave system could not handle data communications (modem, fax) well. This, as well as the collapse of a microwave relay tower linking Churchill in early January 2000, lead MTS to initiate upgrades to the Radisson-Churchill corridor with fibre optics and the Lynn Lake-Thompson corridor with a digital microwave system to replace the outdated equipment. Cellular telephone service is currently available to 98% of population in the province.
In 2002, Intrigna changed its name to Bell Intrigna. Calgary-based telecommunications supplier Intrigna and Bell Nexxia announced strategic changes to enhance their market presence in western Canada and better serve customers in the west. The changes include closer coordination of their activities to serve all segments of the western Canadian business telecommunications market, and the renaming of Intrigna to Bell Intrigna.
In 2003, MTS purchased the naming rights for the True North Centre in downtown Winnipeg, renaming it the MTS Centre. The 10-year deal between True North Sports & Entertainment and MTS, which was MTS's single largest advertising expenditure, was extended when the arena became a National Hockey League venue in 2011.  MTS also owns the naming rights to the MTS Iceplex, another ice hockey complex owned by True North.
In February 2004, MTS made a $230 million pre-tax profit on the sale of its stake in Bell West Inc., the Calgary-based provider of business services. MTS sold its 40% of Bell West to Bell Canada, a subsidiary of BCE Inc., which held 22% of MTS.
In April 2004, MTS acquired Allstream, the successor to the transcontinental railways' telegraph businesses. It renamed the main subsidiary to MTS Allstream Inc. until 2012, when it was split as MTS Inc. and Allstream Inc.
In July 2004, Bell Canada and MTS settled and unwound ownership agreements to conclude ownership in Manitoba Telecom Services Inc.
On March 31, 2011 MTS officially launched a HSPA+ wireless network along with the availability Apple's iPhone series of smartphones starting with the iPhone 4. The wireless network had claims it would provide data speeds up to 21Mbit/s. In September 2012, MTS launched LTE, with it initially rolling out in the cities of Winnipeg and Brandon.
In May 2013, Allstream was to be sold to Accelero Capital, with the deal expected to close by the end of the year. However, on October 7, 2013, the Canadian government blocked the sale over national security concerns, declining to mention the specific concerns.
Acquisition by Bell
On May 2, 2016, BCE Inc. announced that it would acquire MTS in a $3.9 billion all-stock deal, paying $40 per-share and assuming $800 million in debt. Following the closure of this purchase pending regulatory approval, the company will operate as Bell MTS, a subsidiary of Bell Canada; the acquisition was expected to be closed in late-2016 to early-2017. Bell committed to investing $1 billion over five years into expanding broadband service in Manitoba, and upgrading MTS's infrastructure to support new services, including Bell Fibe and LTE-Advanced. Bell will also base its Western Canadian operations out of Bell MTS in Winnipeg, increasing its staff to 6,900 employees. As a condition of the sale, Bell agreed to divest one-third of MTS Mobility's wireless subscribers and MTS retail locations to Telus; the divestment aimed to give the three national carriers (Bell, Rogers, and Telus) a roughly equal market share in Manitoba.
The deal has faced criticism for the possibility that it will result in a higher cost of services. Due to the market positioning of MTS as a fourth major wireless carrier in the region, the three major national carriers have historically offered lower prices in Manitoba to remain competitive. As such, with the removal of a competitor, there would no longer be an incentive to do so. A similar business climate exists in Saskatchewan, where the three national carriers must compete against the dominant, government-owned regional carrier SaskTel. MTS CEO Jay Forbes disagreed with the concerns, stating that "one could easily argue that the presence of three nearly equal size competitors may actually have a more interesting business dynamic than the presence of two larger and two very small players in the marketplace." A survey by the Angus Reid Institute found that 61% of those surveyed moderately or strongly disapproved of the deal. Bell has stated that it intended to maintain MTS's existing pricing structure for at least a year after the closure of the acquisition.
On December 20, 2016, the CRTC approved the sale of MTS's broadcast distribution undertakings to Bell. On February 15, 2017, the deal was approved by the Competition Bureau and Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada. To relieve concerns over the reduction of wireless competition in Manitoba post-merger, Bell additionally agreed to divest 24,700 customers, 6 retail locations, and wireless spectrum to rural internet provider Xplornet so it may launch its own competing wireless business. Bell will provide Xplornet with "expedited access" to its towers for five years, as well as roaming and handset stock. This aspect of the deal will maintain the presence of four competing wireless providers in Manitoba, with the fourth being a new entrant to the market.
The acquisition closed on March 17, 2017; at this time, Dan McKeen (who led the integration of Bell Aliant into the company's national operations) was installed as the new head of the division, replacing the outgoing Jay Forbes. Along with the closure of the deal, Bell launched LTE service in Churchill, Manitoba.
The administration offices are located at 333 Main St., in the former Bank of Montreal Building. The complex is now known as MTS Place.
The MTS Long Distance Gateway is located in the J. F. Mills Building on Corydon Avenue near what is locally known as Confusion Corner. One of its functions is to transmit local television signals from Winnipeg to retransmitters throughout the province.
Bell MTS operates an IPTV service, MTS Ultimate TV, which is available in Brandon, Carberry, Dauphin, Killarney, Minnedosa, Neepawa, Oakbank, Portage la Prairie, Selkirk, Steinbach, The Pas, Thompson, and Winnipeg. MTS Classic TV was the company's legacy digital television service; it was discontinued in 2015 due to its incompatibility with the mandatory National Public Alert System.
Bell MTS offers cable television service in Carman, Holland, Manitou, Miami, Morris, Notre Dame de Lourdes, Plum Coulee, St. Claude, St. Jean Baptiste, and Treherne. Digital cable is available in Altona, Morden, and Winkler.
- "MTS Allstream 2013 Annual Report" (PDF). Manitoba Telecom Services. Retrieved April 11, 2014.
- "Company Profile for Manitoba Telecome Services Inc (CA;MBT)". Retrieved 2008-10-09.
- "Public Values - Manitoba Telephones, ten years later". Retrieved 2010-04-13.
- "CBC Archive - 1959 - Winnipeggers call 9-9-9 for help". CBC News. Retrieved 2006-09-07.
- "Manitoba Telecom Services - 2000 Annual Report" (PDF). Retrieved 2006-09-07.
- "CRTC Decision 2002-63 - Includes upgrades to MTS microwave network". Archived from the original on 2006-11-10. Retrieved 2006-09-07.
- "True North, MTS forge long-term partnership". Winnipeg Free Press. 2016-06-01.
- Carly Suppa (2004-04-01). "Manitoba Telecom Services to Buy Allstream". Retrieved 2013-06-24.
- MTS' new HSPA+ network launches March 31, 2011
- CDMA Network Changes
- "MTS to Sell Allstream". Retrieved 24 May 2013.
- "Sale of Allstream Blocked". Retrieved 7 Oct 2013.
- Management Information Circular 2015
- "MTS names Jay Forbes as new CEO, turns focus to Allstream". Retrieved 23 April 2015.
- "Jay Forbes named as CEO of MTS Allstream". Retrieved 23 April 2015.
- "BCE Inc to buy Manitoba Telecom Services in $3.9-billion deal". Financial Post. Retrieved 2 May 2016.
- "Manitoba's reign of lower wireless prices may be over following Bell, MTS deal". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 3 May 2016.
- "MTS sale to Bell has some Manitobans worried about price hikes". CBC News. Retrieved 2 May 2016.
- "BCE to buy Manitoba Telecom in friendly deal worth $3.9B". CBC News. Retrieved 2 May 2016.
- "MTS sale to Bell panned by most Manitobans, survey says". CBC News. Retrieved 7 June 2016.
- "Ottawa approves BCE-MTS tie-up; deal to benefit Xplornet". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 15 February 2017.
- "Broadcasting Decision CRTC 2016-487". CRTC. Retrieved 21 December 2016.
- "Bell takeover of MTS gets federal approval". CBC News. Retrieved 15 February 2017.
- "Bell MTS deal closes, kicking off $1-billion investment that brings 4G to Churchill, Manitoba". Financial Post. Retrieved 17 March 2017.
- "Upgrade from MTS Classic TV service to Ultimate TV today". Manitoba Telecom Services. Retrieved 17 August 2015.
- "Broadcasting Decision CRTC 2015-569". CRTC. Retrieved 21 December 2015.