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Canada’s 700 MHz spectrum auction starts January 14th, here are the ten companies deciding our wireless future

Cell-tower-Flickr-user-forklift

The upcoming 700 MHz spectrum auction — what some call the “beachfront property” of wireless — is happening in exactly one week, on January 14th, 2014. This sought-after spectrum can easily reach remote areas (with fewer cell sites), is cheaper for carriers to deploy, and has the ability to penetrate through thick walls into buildings, reducing dead spots.

Industry Canada recently released the final list of 15 qualified bidders duelling it out for this contested wireless space. The usual suspects are present: Rogers, Bell, TELUS, and regional carriers like SaskTel, Eastlink MTS and Globalive (WIND Mobile). In addition, some new players made the cut, namely Mobilicity founder John Bitove’s Feenix Wireless. A few companies recently decided to drop out for unknown reasons, including Globalive’s WIND Mobile for financial reasons.The list has now been narrowed to 10: this is a homogenous group making a play for licences, thus potentially limiting wireless competition in Canada.

Here’s the list of bidders still participating:

  • Bell Mobility Inc.
  • Bragg Communications Incorporated (Eastlink Wireless)
  • Feenix Wireless Inc. (Group led by John Bitove)
  • Globalive Wireless Management Corp. (WIND Mobile) – Withdrawn
  • MTS Inc.
  • Novus Wireless Inc. (Novus)
  • Rogers Communications Partnership
  • Saskatchewan Telecommunications (SaskTel)
  • TBayTel
  • TELUS Communications Company
  • Vidéotron

Source: Industry Canada

  • hamza

    Hopefully a company other than the big 3 can walk away with the spectrum.

    “Justice shall be served”

    • Delphus

      Right, and then what?

      They will magically set up a nationwide network…

      Hey maybe we’ll get free gas too!!!

    • hamza

      Right and maybe we’ll have less dickheads surrounding us too!!!

    • Laer

      Well that’s not going to happen, it’s the internet. You should have stuck with pipe dream A.

    • hamza

      Hahaha good one

  • Vineet Sharma

    Hopefully we will see the price drop in coming future INCLUDING Big 3

    • Walter

      If I were you I wouldn`t hold my breath

  • Sweet

    With only two blocks available for the Big 3 to bid on, the thing I’m wondering is which of the Big 3 will lose out. My gut tells me it’s Telus.

    I’m also interested, and suspicious, of what Bitove’s company will do with the spectrum if they win. Is he creating wireless companies just so he can flip them like people flip houses ?

    • Brandon Roberts

      I’ll bet it’s Bell.

      2 reasons. Roger’s always has to be the first and best at everything. They also probably have the deepest pockets for this sort of stuff. They don’t want to lose.
      TELUS has shown great interest in more spectrum as we know from the Mobilicity bids as well as the Public Mobile takeover.

      Bell on the other hand probably won’t be as fierce.

    • Sweet

      I figured Telus would lose because Bell has deeper pockets than Telus and should be able to out-bid Telus.

      I agree that Rogers will surely be one of the winners.

    • Bbrysucks

      Not like it really matters if it’s bell or telus that lose. They share everything anyhow, so a customer on one network will get to use the infrastructure of the other without even noticing. It’s been that way for more years than I care to remember.

    • JTon

      If both their customers bases are sharing the same spectrum band, network performance will suffer due to congestion

    • Laer

      Technically they don’t share spectrum, they share infrastructure. If they wanted to share spectrum they would need CRTC approval.

    • Shūji Kiritani

      It’d be interesting to see if Feenix Wireless merges with Mobilicity, since there was no news of him selling off Mobilicity or the shareholders choosing a new CEO.

    • Savbers

      Smart! Then, they could technically have more than 2 paired blocks in any given region.

    • accord1999

      The Big 3 can each win 1 block out of the 4 prime blocks.

      The only real questions will be who wins the blocks corresponding to AT&T’s 700 MHz spectrum and who wins the blocks corresponding to Verizon.

  • Tornado15550

    When will the auction conclude?

    • Brandon Roberts

      They’ll announce winners 5 days after it concludes.

    • ScooterinAB

      I read through the website detailing the auction rules (which wasn’t very good, by the way). I recall reading that the auction will take as long as it takes. Basically, it will keep going as long as there are bids, so Industry Canada cannot speculate on the duration.

  • Jamie W Bush

    I wonder if rogers has any money left to bid with after buying the rights to nhl

    • Eric Pitzul

      Rogers has been waiting for this for well over 5 years. They are ready.

  • Rich

    Just for the sake of being random, I hope T-Mobile buys WIND.

    • TopperCNC

      T-Mo themselves are in the process of being bought out by Sprint (owned by Japan’s SoftBank). Deutsche Telekom (which owns T-Mobile USA) has been trying to sell T-Mo for quite some time now.

      Although I’d love to see T-Mo set foot in Canada, it won’t happen, not by buying out Wind or by any other mean.

    • Shūji Kiritani

      I’d love them to come over, their North American unlimited data is what I want the most. No more data roaming fees anywhere in North America.

    • ScooterinAB

      Really? I had no idea that Softbank owned Sprint. That’s kind of cool.

  • d a

    F U Rogers, Bell, Telus.

    • d a

      Something else that occurs to me, we’ve heard a lot from the conservative government about how much they care about the public and making sure we get treated fairly etc. I believe it’s all political bull, but if they were to block Rogers Bell and Telus, that would be a move that might actually help the public in the long run.
      So, Harper, put up or shut up.

    • Mad-elph

      Just remember their responsibility runs both ways. If they prevent the ones with the most amount of money, infrastructure etc from winning then they are exposing Canadians to subpar services. If you disagree ask yourself how you would feel if you bought a phone from a company, signed a contract for cheap prices then they went under and you have to start all over again. Businesses have to be smart, government has to be smarter. If they prevent the best for participating we all lose as much if they only let the big three participate.

    • Babulal

      Who do you work for? Rogers, Bell or Telus? The Big Three have so much unused spectrum which is lying dormant.

      Not sure what they will achieve buy buying more spectrum while they can’t use up what they already have. Oh wait, I know. They will block the smaller players from getting more spectrum and expanding.

    • Delphus

      Again another one that has no understanding of how telecoms work…

      Please folks, stop exposing your ignorance.

      Yes I hate paying high bills as much as you, put you can’t ask for superior services and not want to pay for it, as with anything else in this world.

      So please stop your complaining.

    • iPwn8599

      I agree, but I wouldn’t call it “superior service” if I get 1/2 a bar with Bell in Richmond Hill Ontario

    • Delphus

      Right :-)

      Call it “theoretical superior service” :-)

    • gommer strike

      Who cares who he works for? If he works for the big 3…why…is he then, a traitor to these forums?

      Just an everyday guy working for an everyday company, like YOU. Gotta work to put food on the table and for the roof over our head.

    • accord1999

      So which spectrum are the Big 3 not fully utilizing? The only blocks possibly underutilized are in the 2.6 GHz spectrum that Bell and Rogers has but then that’s mainly because it has poor range and relatively weak handset support.

      Otherwise the 850 and 1900 frequencies are used for CDMA/GSM/HSPA and the AWS frequencies are used for LTE.

      The Big 3 do have a lot of spectrum, but so does every other major national scale mobile network provider in the world.

    • accord1999

      It may help the public in the long-run…

      But it’ll hurt the public in the short-run by not getting adequate compensation for licensing the spectrum. And the biggest winner by far would be the backers of Wind, who would instantly be worth billions of dollars more by being able to acquire valuable spectrum at below market costs.

    • ScooterinAB

      Except that this would do immeasurable harm to the 80-90% of Canadians who are their customers. Blocking The Big 3 would not only make this auction a miserable, burning failure since no one else has any money to bid with, but it would put the vast majority of Canadians at a disadvantage.

      This would also do immeasurable harm to Canada as a destination for business and investment. People with big brains and big wallets are already firing at the Conservative government for making tech investment in Canada undesirable. Blocking the only companies that are profiting and providing reasonable services shows that the Canadian government will actively sabotage success in a plea to win votes. If this happens, there will be unknown harm throughout all sectors of industry. Who would be next?

      Like it or not, the Big 3 are the Big 3 for a reason. Just because you have an axe to grind doesn’t mean that all of Canada should suffer.

  • hoo dat

    I really would love to who the fool is who’s fronting Bitove again.

  • realitycheck

    GO NOVUS!! use it to get more leverage in Vancouver!

    • Kisai

      oh, just like Shaw did? Shaw sat on the spectrum so they could sell it to Rogers the second they get a chance to. I’m certain that everyone bidding on the spectrum this time around is just itching to do the same.

  • PT

    The big 3 should not allow for this comming bid, period.
    “Justice shall be served”

    • Delphus

      Right, so just let the small carriers that won’t be able to set up the network to support it. Then come and complain that we are in the dark ages compared to other countries…

      Your lack of understanding of the true nature of telecoms in Canada is outstanding…

    • JTon

      Delphus is right. We don’t want that. We just want lower prices…

  • Justin

    Would like to see a small guy, like regional carrier MTS win this.

  • Swordfish

    Curious how long it will take for the winners to implement. I personally look forward to loosing all the dead spots in our building!

  • Walter

    I just want Wind to buy enough spectrum to improve their indoor penetration and to expand to a few more markets across the prairies.

    • Martin Chan

      Second that, their coverage is great now but unfortunately due to physics, the spectrum they have gets absorbed by walls rather than phones.

    • Shūji Kiritani

      I hope they do, the need it to launch LTE.

    • Anaron

      Me too. They desperately need it for LTE.

    • Walter

      I am only for LTE as long as its cheaper than the big 3.

    • TrOuBLeDbOy

      that rhymes y0 :D

    • JTon

      What they desperately need is more customers. I think improving network reliability and size will help them more than LTE at this point

    • Laer

      Those come hand in hand with this auction.

    • Anaron

      They can gain more customers by offering LTE service.

    • Matthew Livingstone

      In life and business two wrongs don’t make a right. Wind and Mobilicty are failing and wind is gonna buy them out? C’mon guys that’s an overtaxed weak network with more work to do. I think wind is gonna lose a lot in the future :-( but like ScooterinAB says this auction may help them stay in the game but their cx base needs to pay more or take less.

    • Anaron

      They don’t but WIND is in a much better position that Mobilicity. Any bit of spectrum they get in the upcoming auction will allow them to stay afloat. If not, then they’ll wither away like Mobilicity.

    • ScooterinAB

      This guy. LTE is the last thing Wind needs to be concerned with. What they need is to plug the gaps in their business model, expand and improve their network to the point where they are a viable choice, and give customers who aren’t pimps and drug dealers a reason to use Wind.

      Unfortunately, none of that will happen as a result of this auction, but it would at least give Wind some of the resources they need to stay in the game.

      Wind needs money (and bad) in order to fix their problems. They can’t get more money unless they have more customers or double/triple their rates. But they can’t get more customers unless they fix their network. It’s kind of a catch-22.

  • Nathan Burke

    Hopefully eastlink walks away with 700mhz in the maritimes, we have some of the hardest terrain to cover.

  • Anaron

    Part of me is hoping that WIND Mobile and another small carrier get something worthwhile out of this auction. But I know that 2 out of the Big 3 will gobble up the good stuff. WIND desperately needs this spectrum for LTE. If they don’t get it, then their only hope is to acquire Mobilicity and use their AWS spectrum for Band 4 LTE (which is supported by most of WIND’s devices).

  • JLishere

    Where is Google when you need them?

    • gommer strike

      Isn’t Google continuing to work on Google Voice and such? I think it’s just a matter of time before they expand it more and more, and soon everyone will have a single GV number with full granular control, all the way down to, which phones ring, under what circumstances.

    • Matthew Livingstone

      is in why isn’t google bidding? lol Google telecom

  • Garrett Cooper

    LOL @ TbayTel

  • Skippypaccino

    Well after the auction is over…How long before we start seeing a difference? Is it something that needs them to install more towers before its a viable solution or is it more of a “flip the switch” on the existing network giving it a immediate boost in cell reception?

    I think not letting the big 3 bid on all of it is redundant…We all know they’ll just buy up whom ever got the other pieces of the pie…I’m starting to think that’s the only reason why the smaller guys are bidding, just so they can turn around a sell at a profit what they just bid on? instead of the Tax payers getting all the money from it we are selling parts of the pie at a discount for them to turn around and resell it to make a profit? They are basically pulling the same stunt people pull on ebay (buy a ps4 on day one and turn around and sell it at 4X the amount they paid for it)

    I should be allowed to bet on this auction…You won this much Spectrum Mr.Paccino…Thanks, here’s a postdated check (turns around to talk with rogers, bell and telus) How much are you willing to pay? That much? Damn!!! Sold….LOL

    I think the real fight the government should be fighting is cable tv…That needs some changes and fast…its 2014…where’s my internet tv on demand?

  • BB BB

    Let’s see what happens with wind hopefully we will get some LTE and coverage across the country without roaming otherwise it’s time to cancel my wind line.

    • Anaron

      You can use your Toronto WIND number in Vancouver. I don’t think the same can be said about Rogers, Bell or Telus without incurring long distance charges. I’ve been to Hamilton and my friends couldn’t use their phones because of extra charges and they’re with the Big 3. I, on the other hand, was able to make as many calls as I pleased without getting charged extra.

      LTE will be the icing on the cake for WIND. If they get it, then they can really compete with the Big 3. They have two opportunities: 1) buy Mobilicity and use the additional AWS spectrum for Band 4 LTE (which is what the Big 3 use). And 2) hopefully acquire the right kind of 700 MHz spectrum (e.g. Band 17 [what AT&T uses]) for LTE.

      Even if they don’t get Band 17, they can fall back to Band 12 which is what T-Mobile is going to buy in the US. That way, devices made for T-Mobile in the US can be compatible with WIND’s future LTE network.

    • Plazmic Flame

      If WIND gets LTE, that would be huge and since the 700 MHz penetrates buildings easier, their reliability should boost up.

    • Anaron

      It would definitely be huge. LTE is the biggest thing that separates WIND from the Big 3. If they get it, a lot of people will reconsider WIND.

    • Guest

      Rogers, Bell and Telus all currently offer Canada-wide plans*(and their sub-brands have for years) so your first statement doesn’t carry much merit when it comes to current offerings(though price difference is obviously visible)

      That said I doubt Wind would purchasing Mobilicity’s pitiful amount of spectrum would be enough to make a useful band 4 LTE network, they’d be better off merging it into their current spectrum to help offload the congestion on their network.

    • JP

      Just an FYI, Bell, Rogers and Telus do offer Canada-wide plans as of late though their sub-brands have been offering them longer so roaming in Canada as we know it is beginning to disappear. In fact Wind and Mobilicity are the only carriers these days that still do it but for different reasons.

    • Anaron

      That’s true; however, it isn’t a standard feature. It seems to be more standard with the value sub-brands like Koodo and Virgin Mobile. Two of my friends have Telus and Bell plans and neither of them have Canada-wide calling.

    • JP

      Older plans tend not to feature canada wide calling but most of the newer ones do.

    • Matthew Livingstone

      even if wind gets the bands they want, they’ll still need to deploy new towers to service new areas, as well as deploy new equipment on existing towers to use the new bands. All in all Wind is a slow to no growth company and like they say robellus are can-wide already. So if wind wins its bids you can expect a price jump or slow expansion for sure.

    • Anaron

      New areas, yes. But they have towers up in the major areas already. And if they can bolster those areas with LTE, then it would be great and more people will consider them as an option. If not, then their growth will stagnate.

      As for a price increase, it may or may not happen. I think slow expansion is more likely until they really improve things in their current home zones.

    • Matthew Livingstone

      Towers are usually fitted with only what they need so if a tower is not fitted with a trans/rec “unit” they would have to install one before the area could get service and that costs more money.
      ie: LTE is “available” everywhere in Canada but if there is only a 2g tower in my town I cannot use LTE. It’s not as simple as “We bought it now lets use it.”
      700 Mhz band is like F1 premium gas … useless without a car lol
      Any existing 700Mhz transmitters would already have owners. So unless they were sold off as part of these bids or private sales from the past owners, anyone who buys the 700′s would need to deploy new equipment as well.

    • Anaron

      I know. That’s for 700 MHz LTE. I was hoping they could buy Mobilicity and use their 10 MHz block for AWS LTE.

  • Rory

    Come ooonnn Wind!

  • RobertG

    Absolutely nothing will change. Robellus will forever be the largest wireless telcos, and the most expensive as well. You get what you pay for in services and support [or lack thereof]

  • Brandon Roberts

    True, but why would he care when it ends? I’m sure he wants to know the results

  • gmd

    Stop saying the Big 3. I only see two networks.

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