What Next for Ottawa’s Wireless Strategy?

by Istvan Fekete on January 15, 2014

Yesterday marked an important event in the Canadian mobile industry: the government kick-started the 700 MHz spectrum auction with 10 “dynamic” Canadian participants. As you may already know, Wind Mobile withdrew its application a day before the auction was set to begin, due to lack of financing from its foreign backer. In other words, gone with the “Wind” are Ottawa’s hopes for a competitive mobile landscape. So, what’s next for the government? Is there a plan B?

We can’t say Ottawa sat back and did nothing to encourage a competitive wireless environment, but this is now at risk, and “the government’s vision of four strong competitors in every market looks like a pipe dream”, writes Michael Geist, law professor at Ottawa University.

Analyzing the government’s rhetoric, wireless competition appears to be a key policy priority: we only need to consider the $9 million spent on a national advertising campaign, and multiple statements that underscore the Harper government’s commitment to bringing more choice to Canadian mobile subscribers. Wireless was part of Industry Minister James Moore’s Speech from the Throne.

Some say the only solution to reignite competition in the market is to further ease foreign investment restrictions. Ottawa has done a little, but as it turns out, allowing full foreign ownership of wireless companies with less than 10% market share didn’t really help.

But what makes a statement and could serve as Plan B to compensate for the failure of Plan A is regulation of the wireless market, Geist says. Ottawa should focus on regulatory solutions.

And there are clear signs of a move in this direction in the form of regulation of wholesale roaming charges. This could serve as the first step, followed quickly by other regulations. If this happens, Wind Mobile would hope to survive until April 2015 when the 2500 MHz auction is scheduled.

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

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