New wireless carriers coming to Canada?

Last week, the Canadian government announced details about its upcoming wireless spectrum auction. About 105 megahertz of spectrum will be available for bidding with some 40 megahertz of that set aside for new players (including companies that today have less than 10 percent of the national wireless market based on revenue). There are some other conditions as well. Competitors will also need to share cellphone towers. And for at least 10 years, winners will also need to let customers from rival networks roam on their networks outside of their licensed territory.

Companies that have already expressed interest include Quebec-based Videotron and Manitoba-based Manitoba Telecom Services Inc. Foreign companies, on the other hand, will need to partner with a Canadian firm in order to make a bid.

The auction will start on May 27, 2008 and run for about three weeks.

The hope behind the rules of the auction is that new players will step in to increase competition and drive down prices. Today, Rogers Wireless, Bell and Telus control about 94 percent of the subscriber base in Canada and wireless prices are significantly higher than many other countries, including the United States.

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