AT&T Says There’s “Not Enough Room” for a Fourth National Carrier in Canada

by Istvan Fekete on September 18, 2013

Carriers interested in acquiring a prized 700 MHz wireless spectrum block had to submit their application and 5% deposit by yesterday.

While their identity won’t be unveiled until next Monday, some say we can expect some new, foreign players as well. Earlier this week, BNN mentioned three names: Vodafone, AT&T, and Norway’s Telenor.

But according to their high-level source, AT&T won’t bid on wireless spectrum, because the carrier was advised not to expand into Canada. AT&T was looking at acquiring Wind Mobile back in March. The decision to skip Canada came as late as June/July.

“AT&T indicated as late as mid-July that it was not interested in expanding into Canada, according to a source who attended a banking conference where the issue was discussed.”

“The U.S. telecom sent a “very open message to Canadian debt and equity investors—they are not coming to Canada”, citing “not enough room for four players in Canada.”

“In a confidential memo obtained by BNN, the highly-placed telecom industry source wrote that AT&T had looked at Wind Mobile and Mobilicity “in detail” and passed.”

And I think you may have guessed the reason: no, not the Big Three’s aggressive media campaign, but something one player has already highlighted. Despite the government’s efforts to bring a foreign wireless player into the country to become the fourth national player, the country isn’t believed to be ready to support four national carriers.

On the other hand, wireless carriers are saying very little about the spectrum auction. Telus has publicized its intention to participate in the January auction, but Rogers and Bell have refused to disclose whether they had formally registered bids by Tuesday’s noon deadline set by Industry Canada.

“We are participating,” Telus spokesperson Shawn Hall said Tuesday in an interview, “but I can’t disclose any of the details.”

Among the smaller players, Wind Mobile has confirmed it will bid.

“Obviously, there has been a very rapid evolution of smartphones,” said chief executive Anthony Lacavera, who owns a 35 per cent stake in Wind Mobile. “We’re now in a position where we need a lot more spectrum to service demand.”

Mobilicity and Public Mobile have declined to comment, so we don’t have information about their intentions. We will find out on Monday, September 23.

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

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