Innovation minister orders CRTC to revisit wireless network access decision

Xavier Trudeau
Juin 6, 2017

"This lack of choice does not benefit Canadians", Bains said.

"Minister Bains and his government are clearly putting consumers and competition first, ahead of the Big Three telecom companies charging some of the highest wireless rates in the world", said Samer Bishay, President and CEO of Sugar Mobile and its parent Ice Wireless.

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission ruled in March that Rogers (TSX:RCI.B) could block customers of Sugar Mobile, a subsidiary of Ice Wireless, from roaming on its network.

A spokesperson for Bains said the review will also include a second decision issued by the CRTC on March 1 that reinforced its position that wholesale roaming can not be used as a way to get permanent access to a telecom company's network.

Bains said he was asking the regulator to launch a new examination of the subject.

But at least one Canadian-based operator of a mobile virtual network (MVNO) in the United States predicts the results of the review won't open Canada's wireless market to substantial competition any time soon.

"And that effectively prevents Wi-Fi based providers from offering their low-priced plans to consumers".

TekSavvy, which offers home Internet service in central Canada, but has been looking at broadening into mobile service, called the CRTC review "potentially game changing".

Canada's last remaining independent wireless provider, Wind Mobile, was rebranded as Freedom Mobile after being bought by telecom giant Shaw Communications (TSX:SJR.B) previous year.

The government is also launching a public consultation on releasing spectrum to support the development of fifth generation, or 5G, wireless networks, Bains said, though he did not specify a timeline.

Bains told the Canadian Telecom Summit in Toronto the Wi-Fi-based model could benefit Canadian consumers, particularly those who are less well-off.

Mr. Bains also announced a streamlined licensing framework to allow more satellite-based providers to enter the market and extend high-speed Internet services to Canadians in rural and remote communities.

"Last year Canadians paid almost $38 million [CAD] to have their cellphones unlocked", said Bains. "The digital divide is unacceptable".

Those attempts proved ineffective. Prices, especially for cellphone service, are generally higher than in Europe and the U.S. Carriers argue this is because Canada, with a small population spread over a massive area, demands larger and more expensive infrastructure investment to maintain network quality.

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