No changes to next Canadian spectrum auction rules despite carrier complaints

Wireless antenna

Bell, Rogers and TELUS have been waging a very public relations campaign over the rules that will drive the next Canadian spectrum auction. They are concerned that current rules will give foreign wireless firms an unfair advantage. It appears that those protests have fallen on deaf ears when it comes to the Canadian government as Prime Minister Stephen Harper today announced that the auction will go ahead with the rules as they stand.

According to the big three, the rules favour smaller players by limiting Canada’s big three carriers to only bidding for one of four prime blocks of spectrum whereas the smaller players are allowed to bid on two. With Verizon rumoured to make a play for WIND Mobile and/or Mobilicity, it would be considered a smaller player despite being a carrier far larger than the Canadian incumbents.

Harper today acknowledged the concerns raised but pledged not to alter the rules in a bid to increase competition and lower cellphone rates:

“I understand full well where some of these big companies are coming from. They’re important parts of the Canadian economy and they have a responsibility to protect their profits, protect their bottom lines for their shareholders.

At the same time, the government has a responsibility towards a wider public interest, and Canadians are very clear about what that wider public interest is to us. They want to see enhanced competition, lower prices, better services in this area.”

It remains to be seen how Bell, Rogers and TELUS will proceed from here. They and other bidders have until September 17th to register for the 700MHz spectrum auction. The auction itself will start on January 14, 2014.

With the government’s decision, will we now see Verizon make a play for one or more smaller Canadian carriers? Could other players come forward as well? If nothing else, the stage is set for an interesting few more weeks!

Source : Reuters