Industry Canada has denied a request to transfer 83 spectrum licenses in the WCS range (2300Mhz) to a Rogers-Bell partnership, Inukshuk Wireless.
The government received a request last October to transfer the spectrum from NextWave to Inukshuk, which comprises 83 licenses across Canada at 30Mhz each. WCS is a little-used non-contiguous strip of two 15Mhz blocks buttressed by SDARS, or Satellite Digital Audio Radio Service, used by XM and Sirius in North America.
At the moment, WCS is largely unused across Canada, as it was set aside for fixed wireless broadband internet with a claim to wireless services down the road, but few devices exist to support it. The request from Inukshuk, which would have given Rogers and Bell a combined 77% of the total Canadian WCS spectrum, up from the 29% they own today, is likely due to AT&T’s recent acquisition of similar spectrum throughout the US, across which it plans to deploy LTE service in some regions.
The request was considered under the new Spectrum License Transfer Framework — the same one that continues to prevent TELUS from purchasing Mobilicity — and was found to create an environment that “results in excessive spectrum concentration for Canada’s largest wireless companies,” and “negatively affects competition in the telecommunications sector.”
Though it’s unlikely that WCS will be rolled out in urban areas, it has great potential to be used for high-speed wireless internet in rural regions, something that the government pledged during its most recent Throne Speech. According to the decision notice, “Industry Canada notes that the importance of the WCS band as commercial mobile spectrum will increase as the ecosystem for advanced LTE services is expected to emerge in the next few years. If the transfer was approved, it would represent a significant shift in spectrum concentration in the WCS band. Given there is only one paired block of WCS spectrum, only one licensee can hold a licence in a given tier. As such, if approved, 95 percent of the WCS spectrum would effectively be held by Bell, Rogers, and TELUS Communications Inc.”
Inukshuk currently owns a large portion of the 2600Mhz spectrum across Canada, from which Rogers has recently rolled out its LTE Max product.