Industry Canada clarifies spectrum license transfer rules, says it will continue to prevent “undue concentration of spectrum”


The Minister of Industries, Christian Paradis, and the Government of Canada laid out the rules for the transfer of current and prospective wireless spectrum licenses in a document that ranged from clear to downright verbose.

When Ottawa denied the sale of Mobilicity to TELUS last month, it provided insight into its eventual decision to prevent “undue concentration of spectrum among a small number of wireless service providers.” Today’s set of rules expand on that idea, by saying that all transfers of spectrum licenses between companies must be approved by the government, and will be reviewed within 15 days of submission.

The plan does not clarify what will happen in the realm of Prospective Transfers, such as those awaiting submission from Rogers in regards to options purchased from Shaw and Quebecor. Rogers, the largest network provider in Canada, entered into two separate deals with the aforementioned companies to purchase wireless spectrum in the AWS bands, which can only be considered once the abrogation of license transfers expires in 2014. Only then can Rogers submit the requests to the government, who will in turn consider the economic and competitive ramifications of the deals. It could very well approve one and deny the other.

Paradis has stated many times that he wants four wireless competitors in each Canadian province in order to promote a rich competitive environment throughout the country. With the inevitable consolidation or sale of WIND Mobile, Mobilicity and Public Mobile to an outside company like Verizon, or to a group of debt holders like Catalyst Capital Group, the mobile market is set to go through substantial changes over the next year.

Before the first spectrum transfers get submitted to the government next year, Canadians will see big changes, both to the prices of phones they buy and to the plans they apply to them, starting in December with the implementation of the Wireless Code of Conduct. Among other changes, Canadians will be allowed to cancel their plans without penalty after 24 months.

The auction for Canada’s coveted 700Mhz spectrum block is scheduled for January 14th, 2014.

Source: Industry Canada

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