CRTC looking into the Big Three wholesale roaming arrangements and if it provides an ‘unfair competitive advantage’

Ian Hardy

December 12, 2013 4:44pm

The CRTC announced today that they’ll be looking into the Big 3 wireless carriers (Rogers, Bell and TELUS) wholesale wireless roaming arrangements, specifically if they’re in anyway an “unfair competitive disadvantage” to its competitors, namely WIND Mobile, Mobilicity and Videotron.

Back in August, the CRTC was made “aware of concerns with respect to the rates, terms, and conditions associated with wireless roaming” and requested all Canadian carriers to submit roaming revenues. In a press release today, “based on information obtained by the CRTC,” they declared that “some of the large providers are charging, or proposing to charge, their smaller Canadian competitors significantly higher wholesale roaming rates than those charged to U.S.-based wireless companies.”

Jean-Pierre Blais, Chairman of the CRTC, was firm in his statement by saying “We are concerned that some wireless companies may be making it unfairly difficult for Canadian providers that do not operate a national network to compete in the marketplace. We have the authority to ensure that companies do not give themselves an unfair competitive advantage. This includes charging wholesale wireless roaming rates that are unjustly discriminatory or by insisting on unduly restrictive terms and conditions. If we find that this is happening in the market, we will act to rectify the situation.”

During the Throne Speech in October, Governor-General David Johnston, stated they’ll be “looking out for everyday Canadians” to reduce roaming costs within Canada. Looks like this will actually happen. The CRTC is seeking feedback, plus “possible solutions,” and have requested comments by January 29th, 2014.

Source: CRTC

  • PT

    Simple solutions: Do not allow the Big 3 in this coming auctions. Problems solved. lol!

    • Delphus

      Right… because Wind will build a world class network by themselves…

      Then you folks complain, wrongly many int’l studies have confirmed, that our networks suck…

      Yes, Big 3 prices are too much, but obviously most of you have no business acumen and think only of dreamland fantasies.

      Take a look at int’l telecom new stories and you’ll see the same is going around pretty much everywhere…

  • marorun1982

    Sure the big 3 paid the big price to establish those network so ofcourse it’s will cost more for other providers to use those network they paid nothing for. Now if the big 3 give better roaming to us based company that’s wrong… Unless they also get much better roaming deal in the us on those big 3 carrier. At some point the CRTC is not that’s good.. You guys like to pay more per month? Because that’s was the result lol

    • d a

      Or maybe more and more of us will move to the little 3. Bottom line is WE are being gouged and spare me the competition nonsense. You and your friends collude to make sure there is no competition.

    • marorun1982

      It’s not a question of competition but a question of investment. Roaming agreement are based on what you offer in exchange so if you have no network or almost none you will get less good deal it’s life. it’s feel like the small providers want same network coverage but don’t want to pay for it. So basically all providers should get free access to the network of the big 3? sure it’s easy to give lower pricing if you don’t pay for network and maintenance. There is more than only end market price here.

      Only way to get more competition is that’s the government or an alliance of small providers build a new national network. Stop trying to use other network and complain of price.

      But as usual CRTC will force change and consumer will pay for it dearly like the 2 years contract lol.

    • deltatux

      Only those on the Big 3’s network mainly had a to pay more, but those who are on WIND Mobile for example, saw no changes to our plan’s rates.

    • marorun1982

      and what happening to those company? They dying because they don’t havea realistic business model. now I don’t say the big 3 one pricing are Ok. but pricing of the small providers are unrealistic ( wind, mobilicity and public mobile mostly)

      I think rate like koodo, chatr, virgin and fido are more realistic. a good balance of profit and price.

    • deltatux

      You do realize that when Rogers, Bell and TELUS started out, their mobile units weren’t profitable either. It’s through government incentives (free spectrum) that they were able to build out their network and started beginning to gain profit. Do remember that WIND has only been in existence for 5 years while the Big 3 has been in the cell market for over 20. Plus, unlike WIND, they also have other products in the market like Internet, TV and home phone as well to line their pockets. WIND is exclusively in mobile. Building out a new network and maintain them cost a lot of money.

      Problem is that they’ve had an uphill battle since the start even though the government padded the Big 3 for years. The new entrant’s model is not unrealistic, it’s just that there’s too many factors playing against them. Doesn’t help that the Big 3 are also dragging their feet in their tower sharing agreements, that means they slow down new entrants from installing equipment to expand and densify their network.

    • hajflfsklf

      i really dont understand this whole “tower sharing” argument. why should the big3 have to share their towers? i mean if you’re gonna pull the “oh the government gave them this and that and wind should get it too” card, that’s too bad for wind. if you’re late to the game, that’s the way sh*t goes. i dont go to the grocery store and say hey my dad could buy a can of coke for 5 cents 30 years ago so i should be able to do that today.

    • deltatux

      That’s because that was one of the main conditions for the licensing of the AWS spectrum. A caveat to the incumbents was that to spur competition where the Big 3 owns more than 90% of the market (which is known as an oligopoly by the way), they have to rent out tower space to the new entrants (they don’t use 100% of the tower space anyways, one tower can support equipment from more than one provider btw). The government realizes if they didn’t force the Big 3 to do that, competition will never come to Canada because the market is so lopsided to the Big 3 that’s it’s nearly impossible to enter the market and literally build from scratch. Tower sharing isn’t free loading the Big 3’s towers just like these roaming agreements aren’t free to the new entrants either.

      The Big 3 agreed to these conditions when they licensed for these AWS spectrum, so they knew going in what the conditions were.

    • Who Needs Facts

      The government padded nothing. The Big Three built and or bought their networks. Telus paid more for Clearnet in 2000 than Wind has invested in 5-6 years. And that is using 2000 dollars.

      As far as time goes, Telus was nothing more than a regional carrier prior to 2000 and have built themselves into the one of the top three. No one gave them anything.

      If I was them I too would fight tooth and nail against anyone taking away what I had built and as a business person, I support their stance.

    • It’s Me

      They built their networks on the charity of Canadians. They were simply granted their spectrum instead of having to bid and for spectrum that was auctioned they were protected from high bids by forbidding foreign bidders. Both worked to let them get their lucrative spectr for relative peanuts.

      They are successful because regulation was intentionally put in place to coddle and protect them. Now that they have become large and successful I have no problem with regulation moving toward helping new carriers. The big 3 can’t feed at the trough forever.

    • marorun1982

      and you still have to take into account the investment they made. did the networks of towers was free to put in place? Is it cheaper to take care of much much more lines or of a bigger network? You guys only see one part of the equation. ofcourse current rate are a bit high and need to lower but never to wind or public Mobil pricing it’s a business not a charity. Like in all thing it’s a question of balance and now the balance is not good I agree.

    • It’s Me

      And I do take that into account. No one claimed they were given their networks, prebuilt and free. They cost them money and a lot of it. But they also benefited from our largesse, so why shouldn’t other companies also be assisted in much the same way?

    • HeyYoWL

      What I don’t understand is, if the Big 3 were just given the spectrum, why isn’t Wind being given the same deal?

    • accord1999

      Because the free spectrum that the Big 3 was given was a long time ago when the actual value of wireless services was unknown, therefore the value of the spectrum at that time was low.

      Other spectrum that the Big 3 came from either expensive auctions, or buying out other companies that got free spectrum.

      Now that the amount of money in wireless services is so high, no government in the world is willing to forgo the revenues from auctioning valuable blocks of spectrum to give it to some private company.

    • HeyYoWL

      That totally makes sense from that stand point, I honestly didn’t know that. However, isn’t that one more point of unfairness on new entrants?

    • accord1999

      In a way it is unfair by new entrants, but they benefit from the incumbents having built up the market so that there are large numbers of potential customers.

      It is sort of like how the Canadian Pacific Railway got millions of acres of land for free in Western Canada in exchange for building a railroad. The land is valuable today, but in the 19th century, it was difficult to reach and there was very few people living in the area. But just because CPR got free land, you can’t afford to give free land to every new railroad from then to eternity.

    • It’s Me

      While their later spectrum allotments were from auctions, it’s difficult to claim they were expensive, given they were effectively closed auctions. Foreign bidders were forbidden, which worked to artificially keep the bids low. Bids, in some cases, were also only opened to existing carriers, so again, this worked to keep prices way down.

    • accord1999

      The Canadian 2007 AWS auction took in ~C$4.2 billion, the recent UK 4G auction only took in £2.3 billion despite having more premium spectrum for auction and double the population. The German 2010 4G auction only took in €4.4 billion despite again have more and better spectrum for auction and 2.3X the population.

    • It’s Me

      Just imagine what our would have been if it had been more open…

    • Who Needs Facts

      How is buying Clearnet for $6.6 Billion dollars ($9 Billion today) being granted anything?

      You guys think that if you keep repeating this crap it will be true? Google the damn thing.

      You are still the champion of false information.

    • It’s Me

      wtf are you taking about? Did I, or anyone, claim they have never paid for anything? Google your own damn self and read up on how they were granted spectrum with no bids or were in auctions with rules that suppressed the price.

      Who needs facts when you only spread the irrelevant ones that are convenient?

    • Who Needs Facts

      “They built their networks on the charity of Canadians”
      “They were simply granted their spectrum”

      BS they were. They paid the exact rate it was worth at the time – in some cases, billions of dollars.

    • It’s Me

      Umm, you need to stop spreading lies. When they were first allocated spectrum, it was in a non auction grant. They paid peanuts and bid against no one. And it was not in the billions, you are straight up lying now.

      Once the gov did move to auctions, they were basically fixed. Foreign companies were banned meaning no extra competition in the auction, meaning artificially depressed bids.

      Again, no one claimed they got everything for free. But you are simply a liar when you try to claim they didn’t benefit from our largesse and charity when they were getting established.

      In short, you are either a lair or clueless.

    • Who Needs Facts

      In 1982, which is the pre Macintosh (Mac) era, the local telcos were allocated 20 Mhz of spectrum within their operating areas to launch a cellular network. Cantel – an offshoot of Rogers applied for and was also allocated 20MHz

      In 1989 a further 5 Mhz was allocated to each telco to continue to build the cellular network

      In 1995 Clearnet and Microcell were awarded 30Mhz and Rogers a 10Mhz of PCS BW to build national networks.

      2000 Telus buys Clearnet $6,600.000.000 (has to return BW under caps in place at the time)

      2001 auction – Bell $720,000,000 Rogers $393,000,000 Telus $356,000,000

      2004 Rogers buys Microcell $1,400,000,000

      2008 – Bell $740,000,000 Rogers $888,000,000 Telus $879,000,000

      That is the history. I have not done the math, but I see billions spent by all three companies to acquire their spectrum.

      To say they were granted it, or it was paid for by taxpayers is incorrect at best and a lie at worst.

      As for you comment on liar or clueless I take it for what it worth coming from you. Nothing.

    • It’s Me

      A) so much for your claim of billions
      B) thanks for pointing out exactly what I said, that they were allocated the spectrum, bid free. I also said they paid for it.

      It’s funny that you think you have refuted a single thing I stated. Meanwhile you showed up your own lies.

      Good job.

    • Who Needs Facts

      I said “They paid the exact rate it was worth at the time – in some cases, billions of dollars” which was counter to your “They built their networks on the charity of Canadians” and “They were simply granted their spectrum”

      I think I made my case.
      Have a good night.

    • It’s Me

      There is no way to claim they paid what it was worth because they didn’t have to compete or bid. How can you possible even say that some arbitrary price was exactly what it was worth? They paid what was set and it was set in consultation with them. If there are zero bids then they did not pay what it was worth, they paid an artificially low price.

      It’s hilarious that you think you proved anything. The only thing you’ve proved is you are a liar or clueless. Again.

      I hope you are are least being paid well for spreading carrier FUD and being so dishonest.

    • Who Needs Facts

      I tried being nice but I will say it. At first I thought you were trolling but now I realize it is not so nefarious, you are simply stupid, ignorant or both.

      You disregard Industry Canada published numbers that detail who has spent what in auctions and dismiss the billions of dollars as if it did not happen.

      You either have no knowledge of, or dismiss the history of how the cellular industry was built.

      The original 20 MHZ of bandwidth was allocated to “them” in 1982 – over 30 years ago. A cellphone was the size of a travel suitcase, Minivans had not been invented and Gordie Howe had just retired from playing for the Whalers.

      There was no auction because there was no industry. The industry existed only after the telephone companies of the day (BC TEL, AGT, Sask Tel, Manitoba Tel, Bell, Quebec Telephone and the Atlantic telcos) built it.

      So who were they bid against? Who in BC or Alberta or Manitoba or New Brunswick was going to build a cellular network in 1982 if not the telcos?

      Who would take on the hundreds of millions of dollars of expense? Who could build this industry for Canadians if not “they”?

      Your argument that because no one bid against “them” 30 years ago “they” did not pay enough or did not pay what it is worth is the single stupidest argument on this thread.

      Go to Ebay (they know a thing or two about auctions) and look at the “Buy it now price” and the “bidding prices” and tell me which is less.

      Actually don’t. Your time would be better spent on Google with a search on “how do I get my head out of my a*s”.

    • It’s Me

      Don’t try to be nice. Try to be honest.

      A) carriers were originally granted their initial allocations in a bid free process, requiring a payment that was not determined by a market, like an auction.
      B) allocations were restricted to select companies.
      C) even when allocation moved to an auction system, the deck was stacked by excluding large foreign companies. This served to keep bids low.

      These are indisputable facts.
      You ought to write to the CRTC and industry canada and tell them they are going about spectrum allocation all wrong. They don’t need an auction to determine the fair price. They need to simply award spectrum as the used to for a nominal fee.

      Unlike you, I’ve been under no misunderstanding about you. Since your first post you been very clear that you prefer ignorance and lies.

      And that’s ok. As your name suggests, who needs facts when you can simply make up ones you like and disregard ones that are inconvenient.

      It’s a pity the carriers are left to shills like you. They are not getting their monies worth. As in all areas if their business, they seem to be scraping the bottom of the barrel for you guys.

    • Who Needs Facts

      Those are generalizations, (as has been your whole spiel), not indisputable facts. Answering these questions will give the facts..

      A.) What was the market value of spectrum in 1982?

      B.) Who were the companies that were in position to build cellular networks in 1982 that were not selected?

      C.) Who created the foreign ownership rules?

      I think we both agree how we got to this point, just not how much was paid. You want to turn back time and created a new history or barring that, penalize the current telcos for things that happened 30 years ago.

      What happens in 10 years when it is found that the AWS bandwidth WIND bought in 2014 turns out to be a bargain because at that point AT&T and Verizon are now trying to get into Canada to offer even cheaper service?

      Do we say that WIND did not pay enough because there were no foreign bidders?

      Regarding the shill comment – a comment that usually is stated when you really don’t have any substance to share, other than the shares in Bell and Telus I own through RRSPs I have no affiliation with the industry. I too pay more than I like to for my families four phones.

      If you spent less time typing your feelings and more time reading what others have said you may not have this rage for those who disagree with your line of thought.

    • It’s Me

      I have no rage. I am mostly amused at your attempts to minimize the advantages that Canadians bestowed upon our carriers. I’m not at all trying to roll back the clock. I am, however, in favour of not denying facts. The carriers benefitted from generous regulation, exactly as intended. Given that, there is little pity for them if the regulation is updated to the benefit Canadians. They are resellers of resources that belong to us. As such we have the right to expect these resources be used for our interests and not only to enrich the carriers.

      I’m sorry you only think of your lowered returns if they don’t get their way. But, too bad. It’s time for regulations to serve Canadians and not just the cabal…just as it was always intended.

    • skullan

      They paid billions for the company and the infrastructure at the time. The first time there was an actual auction of spectrum was in 2001, post the Telus-Clearnet merger.

    • PT

      ” big 3 paid the big price”

      What? Do your research first before making a fool statement.

      The big 3 started those network for FREE (read: F R E E. It’s through government incentives “free spectrum” ) So why should these small carriers should be paying more than these US carriers?

    • Delphus

      Right, towers, servers, power lines, engineers, architects, land, roof rentals all that was for free…

      PT, do your own research before making foolish statements

      1 tower covering an 8 km radius costs $400k to install. Now calculate how many towers it takes to cover Canada coast to coast.

      As if all it takes is spectrum….

    • hajflfsklf

      this “they got it for free” argument is hilarious. hey guys the first settlers in canada got land for free, why can’t i get land for free now? LOL

    • Matt

      All of your analogies are really, really off the mark. Or just wrong.

    • Roger Payne

      By all means, feel free to cite one source that affirms your claim.

      I willingly stand corrected if you can do so.

  • d a

    I’ll believe it when I see it CRTC. When is the last time you ever did anything for the consumer that actually was effective?

    • PT

      Let see … There was …. NOTHING. lol!

    • dc07

      Got rid of 3 year contracts?

    • d a


    • hajflfsklf

      ya and made all the plans go up in price by doing that.

    • Roger Payne

      December 2nd…try doing some research first. You might learn a thing or two.

  • Davidyyz

    What’s the point of doing it now? Mobilicity is on it’s way out, Public has been acquired by Telus, and Wind’s future isn’t entirely certain either.

    • marorun1982

      they charge too low priced plans so when you do that you gain no profit and don’t grow lol.

  • kingsclear

    We have to wonder how T-Mobile has FREE data roaming around the world. And we pay huge amounts? What’s up with that?

    • marorun1982

      international provider give them free roaming and they give them free usa wide roaming in return. that’s how it’s work

    • kingsclear

      So why can’t this work here? Its great for marketing.

    • Super_Deluxe

      Lol is that a trick question? Do you really think the big 3 what would work for their customers? They care moreabout their profits than xcustomer satisfaction!!

    • kingsclear

      We can dream can’t we? But they as a group are a monopoly and therefore should be governed by our federal government.

    • Delphus

      right same government that just increased stamps from $0.63 to $1 while at the same time cutting 8,000 jobs…

      “Oh we are protecting the consumer” says Harper….

    • kingsclear

      Totally different discussion. However with the postal situation every country is making the same decision. Home delivery is unsustainable. And postal rates for letters were ridiculously low. We all saw this coming. Watch what is happening in Great Britain. They are privatizing Royal Mail. Do you think privatizing Canada Post is the answer? Something has to give.

    • Super_Deluxe

      Double post.

    • BenC

      Cause it’s only available on 2G network wich people just don’t want to use. It’s like using GSM or EVDO on your Nexus where’s the point.

    • Deciare

      Remember back when GPRS was as fast as it got? Nobody’s asking anyone to stream video over a 2G mobile network. There’s plenty of other uses that would benefit massively from free, slow data.

    • BenC

      I also remember that at the time people where using BB with compressed data and device with WAP browser. It’s true that some client would benefit from a free 2G Data network but it’s NOT worth it considering that they will have to manually switch to 2G network and will complaint of no network when getting in a an area where current roaming partner doesn’t use 2G and NOT mentionning the fact that in Canada only Rogers is using a 2G network for SIM-based device and that multiple provider around the globe started shutting down there 2G networks.

    • Deciare

      So the gist of your view is that it is preferable to have no free mobile data at all, than to have potentially inconvenient free mobile data? I don’t think there’s a question of whether free data is “worth it”; it’s not causing any cost to be passed on to the end user, so why does it matter? Those who have the desire and means to take advantage of it will, and those who don’t won’t. There’s no reason to deny it as an option.

    • hajflfsklf

      the reason is the word “Free”

    • BenC

      Free is a big word in that case. T-Mobile only offer 2G Data service in some country. And when there’s NO 2G available like in UK or Mexico the rate jump to 15$ per MB rounded at 25 KB. Even when traveling to Canada T-Mobile client need to pay 10$ per MB when roaming on Rogers or 15$ per MB when on other Canadian provider since they only have 3G agreement. Also they do NOT offer add-Ons as far as I can remember so in the end using Data while roaming with them except in some specific country is pretty expensive. So yes it might be a good thing for some client but considering the cost for the other that this involve is just not worth it.

    • Deciare

      So the issue is that T-Mobile is not more upfront about the specific countries that are not covered by free 2G data roaming, and therefore potentially misleading customers into paying unexpectedly high data roaming charges. I can get behind the need for clearer messaging.

      Still, the notion that free 2G data will be available in some countries is still absolutely an improvement over having no free data at all.

    • Dee-Dub

      At 2G speeds you’re probably not going to be using too much. Plus they’re probably banking on you roaming on some T-Mobile network overseas, so it just feeds off the parent company and is super cheap.

    • accord1999

      Because T-Mobile had been, until recently, being slowly crushed by AT&T and Verizon and they needed to offer something different to attract more customers.

  • Dee-Dub

    I don’t get what the point of this exercise is. Domestic roaming pretty much only applies to Rogers, because they’re the only network that new entrants roam on. TBayTel and MTS use Rogers, but I don’t think they really have extra roaming. SaskTel is aligned with Bell. Seems like busy work to me.

  • jmasterfunk

    As someone who uses SaskTel, and now gets throttled in rural Manitoba because Rogers is too expensive to roam on… I’m okay with this.

  • GT

    Buy unlockled, or after 90 days of a new contract, unlock it for something like 50 or 75$. If you travel, you will save a lot!

  • Who Needs Facts

    Provided the Big 3 charge each other the same as the new entrants, or anyone else for that matter, the price SHOULD be what the market dictates, not what the government regualtes