OpenMedia, the activist group that has been a thorn in the side of many of Canada’s established telecommunications powers, has announced a new campaign designed to target the upcoming spectrum auctions. The campaign is called “Stop the Cell Phone Squeeze.”
We’ve been talking about the spectrum auction quite extensively here. From WIND Mobile threatening a boycott unless unless Ottawa sets aside some spectrum for Canada’s new carriers to Videotron wanting to limit the blocks of spectrum the Big Three can bid on to just one, Canada’s carriers have been jockeying for position over the precious stuff ever since the auction was announced.
Industry Minister Christian Paradis will be clarifying the auction terms and rules in the coming weeks, so OpenMedia is hoping to once again influence policy and public perception much in the same way their rabble-rousing helped draw attention to the idiocy of usage-based billing practices.
With OpenMedia in the fray, the battle lines should be drawn up soon. The 700 MHz frequency auction is vital going forward and carriers who are able to land big chunks of it will enjoy more market power.
Steve Anderson, OpenMedia’s executive director, says that the incumbents will be using their financial clout to muscle out smaller carriers, rendering the auction far from fair. There is past precedent, too, as the 2008 spectrum auction saw 40 MHz set aside for new players.
What’s up for grabs this time is the “prime cut” of spectrum, a 700 MHz bonanza ideal for LTE purposes. Anderson says that his group would like to see at least 10 MHz of the good stuff set aside for the new carriers. Carriers like the aforementioned WIND, Mobilicity and Public Mobile have also argued for a “set-aside” of similar proportions.
“These are critical issues. And we respect and fully support the efforts of independent organizations like OpenMedia, who play such an important role in informing the public and making sure that the ordinary Canadian consumer’s voice is heard in Ottawa,” said Simon Lockie, chief regulatory officer of Globalive Communications Corp.
Rogers, Bell and Telus are unsurprisingly requesting that the auction remain “open,” suggesting that their companies will be the only ones to make good on the prime spectrum. “Let’s be realistic – the government should recognize who is actually going to the use 700 spectrum to deliver this technology to Canadians,” said Rogers spokeswoman Patricia Trott.
The auction is expected to take place either later this year or in early 2013.