The Canadian wireless spectrum auction circus is now in full swing. The drama officially began in March when the CRTC announced the deadline for submissions to Industry Canada as to how to handle the event. Back then, perhaps the most pressing question facing Industry Minister Tony Clement about this whole thing was whether or not he should be setting aside spectrum for the new entrants.
While the new entrants have been requesting the Government to set aside a portion of the 700Mhz, the Big Three have been lobbying to preserve their vested interests. As things stand, the battle for “beachfront” property of the airwaves in the upcoming wireless spectrum auction, is getting uglier with time.
In September, Mobilicity called the Big 3 “squirrels preparing for a 50-year winter” and accused them of hoarding spectrum. And now, Wind Mobile has gone a step further – Canada’s fastest growing wireless carrier is threatening to pull out of a coming government auction of wireless licences unless Ottawa sets some aside for new competitors and clarifies foreign ownership rules.
So, does the spectrum auction gain national significance as the prime 700 MHz airwaves, are absolutely vital to the progress of Canada’s telecommunications industry? I wish I could say that but for now, it’s fast emerging as a ground to play hard ball with the government.
Naguib Sawiris, the Egyptian billionaire behind Wind Mobile, says his company doesn’t have enough money in the bank to make a competitive bid in the upcoming federal auction for wireless licences. He says the government must set aside the frequencies for new entrants in order to create and sustain the true spirit of ‘competition’. Sawiris is partly right – unless some of these airwaves are set aside for just the new players to bid on, I don’t see them being able to match the mighty Big Three to win a bid.
Sawiris is crying foul claiming he was misled by Canadian regulators and has only one advice for prospect international financiers – “Do not invest in Canada.” He claims that foreign investors are mistreated and the government “takes our money and they leave us to the dogs.” Further, he’s calling upon the Canadian government to clarify its foreign ownership rules for good.
To make matters worse, Wind Mobile has no love lost with Public Mobile and the duo are still fighting out a legal battle in the Supreme Court of Canada. Despite these roadblocks, Wind Mobile has gone from strength to strength this year adding 39,000 and 45,000 new mobile phone subscribers in Q1 and Q2 respectively.
If Wind drops out of the upcoming wireless spectrum, it might just be the beginning of the end for Wind Mobile’s reign as the “fastest growing wireless carrier in Canada”.
What are your views on the upcoming spectrum auction? Is Sawiris asking for a fair deal? Or is he playing hard ball in the name of ‘competition’? Please share your opinion by leaving a comment.