Rogers CommunicationsOn October 1, Rogers Communications announced on a $700-million investment over the next four years  that will see its cellphone network extend to the far reaches of Alberta, the expansion of its high speed internet and the  opening several dozen retail outlets.

Albertans spend more on voice and data plans than subscribers in any other part of the country, making the province a key battleground as Canada’s established cellphone companies try to find new customers in a highly competitive market.

The  average revenue per user in Alberta is $75.26 a month for voice and data services, according to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, well above the national average of $57.94 (the province also has the highest household income). Getting that extra money out of subscribers is harder than ever for the cellphone companies, who are seeing slower growth now that the majority of the users have made the transition to smartphones.

The country’s big three cellphone providers have been scrambling to upgrade their services as the federal government pushes forward with its policies to ensure there is a stable fourth player to compete with them in every region of the country.

Their efforts intensified over the summer as the telecom regulator vowed to take a deeper look at roaming rates to see how they affect competition.

The CRTC undertook that study after introducing measures to cap extra fees, such as those for international roaming, as part of a wireless code that is set to take effect in early December.

With fewer new subscribers looking for their first phone, the companies are aggressively targeting their rivals by expanding their networks, cutting their roaming plans and offering rich incentives for switching.

Rogers said Tuesday the money would be spent to upgrade its wireless network across the province, add 50 more stores to bring its total to 150 (Telus has more than 200, while Bell will have 150 by the end of the year), and sponsor the National Hockey League’s Edmonton Oilers.

While Rogers is the largest wireless carrier in the country, the CRTC estimates that Telus Corp. commanded a 50-per-cent share of the Alberta market at the end of 2012, with Rogers and Bell equally sharing the bulk of the remaining subscribers (only 4 per cent of subscribers weren’t with one of the major carriers).

While Rogers is investing its $700-million in four years, Telus will spend that much this year alone (although its spending also includes the infrastructure needed to expand its IPTV television service). It says its network reaches 99 per cent of Alberta’s population, which is where Rogers hopes to be at the end of its four-year investment.