Craig Wireless Sells Canadian Spectrum to Bell, Rogers

by Jordan Richardson on March 29, 2010

It’s no secret that Canada’s Big Three providers have been jockeying for position in the markets ever since the Harper government announced a prospective loosening of the rules on foreign investment into national telecommunications companies. With new providers seemingly benefiting from the regulatory changes, Bell, Telus and Rogers have been scrambling to snap up territory and maintain control of key markets.

I reported Friday that Rogers entered a partnership with TBayTel to pick up service opportunities in Northwestern Ontario. Now it seems that Craig Wireless Systems Ltd. has agreed to sell all of its Canadian spectrum assets to Inukshuk Wireless Partnership, a group of incumbents that includes Bell and Rogers.

This essentially means that Craig Wireless Systems is giving up its control of wireless markets in Manitoba and British Columbia by selling off what are called “spectrum licenses.” These licenses, now that they are the property of Inukshuk Wireless Partnership, become available to telecom providers so that they can sell wireless services to customers once under control of Craig Wireless.

Craig Wireless also owns or leases spectrum licences in the United States, Greece, Norway, and New Zealand, but appears to be bowing out of Canadian markets with this move.

This deal is analogous, at least in theory, to the spectrum license auction the federal government put on in 2008 for new competitors in Canada’s wireless industry. One of the more useful differences here is that Craig Wireless’ spectrum licenses run on different frequencies than those made available in the auction.

Nevertheless, this deal is good news for Rogers and Bell and it opens up even more market opportunities.

Inukshuk Wireless Partnership was largely developed to provide and promote wireless service in less settled areas, such as those underserviced markets in Northern Canada. This move, together with Rogers’ move to partner with TBayTel, represents a tendency to plug major company services into underserviced markets in hopes to generating more customer allegiance over the long haul.

This partnership is similar to the one devised by Bell and Telus to carve up infrastructure, including wires and towers, to serve other low population areas in Canada.

With so many partnerships under so many different names, it can be hard to tell Canada’s major wireless providers apart. As I’ve said in the past, complicity among these giants is hardly a fantastical supposition. It is clear to me that these companies are scrambling to preserve market share and that partnerships are going to become progressively more prevalent as Bell, Telus and Rogers endeavour to sustain their iron grip on the Canadian consumer.

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