Rogers CEO says Shaw deal offers faster path to improved network resiliency

The CEO Rogers Communications told Canadian legislators its proposed merger with Shaw Communications would allow it to boost network resiliency in half the time it would take to do so alone, after the operator faced a nationwide outage earlier this month that crippled fixed and mobile communications for more than 16 hours.

Speaking before the Standing Committee on Industry and Technology, Tony Staffieri outlined Rogers’ plan to improve network reliability and resiliency. Among other things, he noted its scheme includes the physical separation of its fixed and wireless networks and efforts to partition its networks so incidents can be contained locally. According to Staffieri, such changes will cost around CAD250 million (about $195 million). He added it is working with the government and telecom competitors to ensure emergency calls can effectively be rerouted in the event of another network failure.

Staffieri argued approval of the proposed merger with Shaw Communications, which was announced in March 2021 but remains in limbo, would allow it to make the aforementioned network changes much faster than it could absent the deal.

“The coming together with Shaw will give us the ability to provide an alternate network,” he explained. “Our intent is to keep the Shaw cable network as independent and we will have our wireline cable network become part of that and be completely separate from our wireless network. And so, in terms of our plan, the Shaw transaction will allow us to execute on that ability to separate those in half the time than it otherwise would.”

Rogers previously attributed the outage to an issue that occurred in its network core following a scheduled update. During the hearing, new CTO Ron McKenzie explained that because the operator uses a common IP core, the update could not have been rolled out regionally to prevent a nationwide issue. He added that similar updates had previously been rolled out five times without incident and there was no indication a catastrophic failure would occur. The problem, he said, was due to the different ways equipment from its vendors – Cisco and Juniper – handle flow control and traffic. The way one system handled the update flooded the network core within minutes, he added.

McKenzie was appointed last week to replace former CTO Jorge Fernandes following the incident. McKenzie most recently served as president of Rogers for Business and also previously held a position as COO at Shaw Communications.

Staffieri said the outage has “shown us that it’s critical that we make” investments to improve reliability and resiliency. He concluded “We want to make those changes quickly…I have full confidence in our new chief technology officer Ron McKenzie to execute on those changes.”