SaskTel CEO Says Ottawa’s Rules for Wireless Auction Puts Regional Carriers at Disadvantage

by Istvan Fekete on April 18, 2013

Will Ottawa’s rules for the upcoming wireless spectrum auction boost competition as advertised by the government? Apparently not. SaskTel, the country’s largest regional wireless carrier has raised its voice and said these rules will favour incumbents, not regional players.

The 700 MHz wireless spectrum auction is attracting fierce competition due to its potential: it is able to travel long distances and penetrate buildings, and does it all with the use of fewer cell towers. In addition, the spectrum is optimized for data traffic, which is skyrocketing with the rapid adoption of smart devices and subscribers streaming video and music on their smartphones.

Industry Minister Christian Paradis said the goal is to ensure the presence of at least four wireless carriers in every regional market. But according to SaskTel chief executive officer Ron Styles, this goal is about to collapse, mainly because three other smaller carriers are up for sale, and negotiations already started.

“It doesn’t foster competition and it doesn’t help with rural coverage,” Mr. Styles said during an interview in downtown Toronto on Wednesday. He later added: “Give us a level playing field and we will play on it. But when it is tilted against us, don’t try to tell me later on you’re looking for competition.”

According to Styles, Ottawa’s rules will put regional carriers, such as its company, at a disadvantage, hurting competition rather than seeding it.
Styles hopes to remind Industry Minister Christian Paradis of what he said on Thursday, March 15 last year in front of the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology:

“The idea here was to make sure we would have four players everywhere in the country. In the cities you can have a good business case, but when you go into the rural areas, there is a possibility that companies could get two blocks, or they can go with partnerships, as is the case with Bell and Telus, for example.

What we decided to do is to put an extra requirement for rural deployment to have a coverage of 90% of the current HSPA footprint within the next five years following the auction, and then after that go up to 97% within the next 10 years following the auction.

What it means is that in the current HSPA footprint we have now, which covers about 98% of Canadian households, these people will have access to LTE technology, the same quality as you see in the cities. This is a huge impact.”

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Written by: Istvan Fekete. www.digitcom.ca. Follow TheTelecomBlog.com by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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