Canada Competition Bureau Urges Limits on Wireless Roaming Charges

by Istvan Fekete on January 31, 2014

Wireless roaming charges have been the subject of intense discussions and statements from different parties, including the government. More recently, an independent law enforcement agency, the Competition Bureau, emphasized the need to get tough with incumbents who charge high roaming rates to smaller carriers, which obviously affects their performance on the domestic wireless market.

The Competition Bureau believes it is “necessary and appropriate” for the telecom regulator to intervene with regulatory safeguards against the discriminatory terms applied by Canada’s largest wireless players: Rogers, Telus and Bell.

“The Bureau believes that Canada’s largest wireless companies have an incentive to use high mobile wireless roaming rates to ensure that new entrants are not, and do not become, fully effective competitors,” it said in a statement.

“As a result, new entrants are likely limited in their ability to bring attractive product offerings to market, resulting in reduced product choice, higher prices for consumers and/or less innovation in Canadian mobile wireless markets,” it said.

Wireless startups, which struggle to maintain a foothold in the domestic wireless market, do not have much spectrum on wide-scale networks, so they must sign agreements with the incumbents in order to offer wider coverage for their subscribers. The problem with these agreements is that – as Wind Mobile complained and the CRTC investigation found so far – the Big Three’s roaming fees applied to wireless startups are much higher than those applied to US partners (for example).

After looking into the issue, the CRTC was disappointed by the incumbents’ strategy, and called their terms discriminatory. The regulator also announced that wireless players can submit documentation regarding the wholesale roaming agreements with other Canadian and US-based carriers by January 29, 2014.

Since the deadline has passed, the CRTC’s special task force will focus on analyzing the data, and somewhere in the near future we will hopefully see some sort of regulation of domestic roaming charges.

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

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