Bell Says Potential Huawei Ban Won't Delay 5G Network Launch

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BCE has been ramping up its investments in wireless technology to attract more individual customers as well as corporates.

"If there was a ban, or if we chose a different supplier than Huawei for 5G, we're quite comfortable all of those developments would be addressed within our traditional capital intensity envelope", Cope said. They noted a 5G ban against Huawei "would still bring about some problems" for the two Canadian wireless companies. "Nor do we think whatever the outcome is would it in any way impact our timing in the market for 5G".

"Huawei has been a supplier...for our 3G and 4G mobile networks for a number of years with, of course, the Canadian government's support", Cope said.

Canada's largest carrier, Rogers Communications Inc., has used some Huawei equipment in Western Canada but has swapped most of it for Sweden-based Ericsson, the supplier it says it plans to work with on 5G. Customer growth for the fourth quarter was less strong however than in the previous quarter though losses also slowed.

That was down from $656 million of net income attributable to common shareholders or 72 cents per share for the fourth quarter of 2017. Analysts, on average, estimated BCE would earn 87 cents per share.

BCE, popularly known as Bell, said operating revenue rose about 3 percent to C$6.22 billion.

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Those expenses included a $190-million non-cash asset impairment charge related mainly to Bell Media's French-language specialty TV properties, which have experienced a declining subscriber base.

The company has also announced a 5% increase in its annualized common share dividend to $3.17/share/year, effective with first quarter 2019.

BCE added 122,000 wireless customers on contracts in the period, below analyst estimates of 149,000.

Rivals Rogers Communications and Shaw Communications Inc also had reported better-than-expected earnings driven by strength in their wireless segments. BCE said Thursday it was less aggressive with promotions during the 2018 holiday shopping season. BCE Inc. had an eight per cent decline in fourth quarter net income previous year, as an asset writedown other expense increases offset higher revenue for the telecommunications and media company.

The subscriber additions were below a consensus estimate that projected 160,000 net additions to its mobile services, including 136,000 postpaid and 24,000 pre-paid. In a release, Cope referred to the wireless market as "intensely competitive". It lost 23,000 satellite TV customers.

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