The Big 3 – Rogers, Bell, TELUS and their sub brands – own over 94% of the market share in Canada. Rogers has the most subscribers with 9,288,000, Bell has 7,369,596, and TELUS has 7.2 million. The rest of the market belongs to regional carriers such as SaskTel, MTS, Videotron, plus the newer players WIND Mobile, Mobilicity and Public Mobile.
The upcoming 700MHz spectrum auction will be a heated battle, very similar to the 2008 spectrum auction that brought in the new entrants, but yet very different. In 2008 the government set aside spectrum for new players to come in and bring competition to Canadian wireless, this was “to achieve lower prices, better service and more choice for consumers and business”. The government raised over $4 billion in 2008. For the upcoming 700MHz, some call this the “beachfront property” or “Cadillac” of spectrum, there are different viewpoints of what to do – set aside, no set aside, have a cap, or be completely open. This is what Christian Paradis, Canada’s new Minister of Industry, is currently debating.
Earlier this week activist group OpenMedia started an online petition called “Stop the Cell Phone Squeeze”. This takes direct aim at the Big 3 and their attempt to “trick the government into shutting independent competitors out of the market. They’re trying to block competitors from being able to use essential wireless spectrum”. This all circles around how the upcoming 700MHz spectrum auction should be structured. The 700MHz spectrum is important to carriers because it will help roll out next generation Long Term Evolution (LTE) networks, plus it’s more cost effective to deploy, reaches remote areas easier, and has the ability to penetrate through thick walls in buildings.
In a recent press release OpenMedia stated that the Industry Minister needs “to stand up against the Big Three, and save choice and affordability in the cell phone market”. According to OpenMedia, if the Big 3 succeed in getting their way in the upcoming auction, “they will kill independent competition and be the only game in town. This scheme will lock Canada behind the rest of the world on mobile communications, cripple essential innovation, limit social progress, and drain your wallet every month.”
OpenMedia states on the online petition that “Please stand up for choice by setting aside key wireless spectrum for independent providers”. So far there are over 33,000 signatures and they intend to present, and hopefully influence, them to both the Industry Minister and Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Check out the petition here.