The recent 700MHz spectrum auction raised a total of $5.27 billion for the government. Rogers invested the most money at $3.3 billion for 22 licences, followed by Bell at $565 million for 31 licences, then TELUS with 30 licences for over $1.1 billion. From a rollout perspective, Bell was first in Canada to deploy its 700MHz spectrum in Hamilton, followed by Rogers in various parts of Vancouver, Calgary and Toronto. TELUS has also committed to launch 700 sometime in the imminent future.
The 700 spectrum can easily reach remote areas with fewer cell sites, is cheaper for carriers to deploy, and has stronger cellular signals to penetrate through thick walls in buildings, thus reducing dead spots.
George Cope, Bell’s CEO, has given a bit more insight into its rollout schedule. Bell is aiming to complete its Canada-wide 700MHz spectrum network by the end of 2015. During a speech at the Canadian Club of Montreal, Cope stated that “We’ve already begun to roll out, but we’re actually going to announce over the coming month or so all the different markets… right across the country.” Over the past 5-years BCE has invested $16 billion, but the next 5-years will see a deeper injection of $17.5 billion. These funds will be used to improve its wireless network and bring fibre connections to the home.
In addition, a recurring topic over the past number of months was the possibility of a large foreign company setting up shop in Canada and offering a new wireless service. Cope declared that these companies, including rival Quebec-based carrier Videotron, should not be receiving any special treatment or financial assistance from the government. “If Verizon or AT&T wants to come to Canada, come. Bell is happy to compete with them but they have to compete on a level playing field. I see no reason why Videotron needs any more support than Rogers, Telus or Bell. They’re a large, capable, excellent company who needs no help from the Canadian government, just like the rest of us don’t.”
Last year, The Big 3 carriers (Rogers, Bell and TELUS) created the “Fair for Canada” campaign to inform the government – and ‘misinformed Canadians’ – of various policy loopholes that potentially favour ‘giant American corporations’ who might interested in entering the Canadian wireless space. The government responded by unleashing an advertising campaign called “MoreChoices.” This housed a bunch of facts, quotes and ‘tools’ that Canadians could take advantage of to make informed choices of their wireless needs.
In the end, the Rogers, Bell and TELUS invested the most money in the 700 MHz spectrum auction, the big foreign player stated they were never serious about coming to Canada, and newer wireless carriers, Public Mobile and Mobilicity, have been acquired or potentially on the cusp of extinction.