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700 MHz auction highlights need for more competition and choice in wireless services

OTTAWA – Consumers need more competition and choice in wireless services in light of WIND Mobile’s announced withdrawal from the 700 MHz spectrum auction, said the Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) today.

With only ten potential bidders, including the “Big Three” incumbents – Bell, TELUS and Rogers – and five regional players in the 700 MHz auction, none of the “new entrants” (WIND, Mobilicity and Public Mobile) from the 2008 auction will be able to challenge the entrenched wireless providers for this prime spectrum.

“It is disappointing that the new entrant wireless providers cannot get key 700 MHz spectrum. The efforts of the incumbent wireless providers appear to have eliminated any spectrum auction boost to competition,” said John Lawford, Executive Director and General Counsel at the Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC).

Nevertheless, PIAC notes the 700 MHz auction – and indeed any auction – is only one piece of a broader policy to introduce competition into the wireless sector.

Although the withdrawal of WIND from the 700 MHz spectrum auction is a setback on the path toward more competition and choice for Canadians, PIAC encourages the Government to continue and refine its broader wireless policy initiatives. These include:

•enforcing the new competition-focused policy on spectrum transfers;
•strengthening the roaming and tower-sharing framework;
•following through on the Government’s promise to cap domestic roaming rates
•awaiting the CRTC’s inquiry into wholesale roaming rates;
•releasing more licensed and unlicensed spectrum, as noted in Industry Canada’s Commercial Mobile Spectrum Outlook; and
•clarifying the foreign ownership regime for telecommunications to allow more investment in competitive service providers.

PIAC believes that increased wireless competition can, with the right policy framework, lead to more choice and lower prices for Canadian consumers.

In the meantime, Canadians have more control over their wireless services than ever before, thanks to the new Wireless Code – which came into force last December. “Because of the chance of less wireless competition in the near future, we encourage all Canadians to become familiar with their basic rights, and to make sure their service providers respect the rights expressed in the Wireless Code,” said Lawford.

PIAC is a non-profit organization that provides legal and research services on behalf of consumer interests, and, in particular, vulnerable consumer interests, concerning the provision of important public services.

Link to the CRTC’s Wireless Code of Conduct: Wireless Code of Conduct

For more information please contact:

John Lawford
Executive Director and General Counsel
Public Interest Advocacy Centre
(613) 562-4002×25
(613) 447-8125 (cell)
jlawford@piac.ca

 

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