In May, BCE entered into an agreement to purchase Manitoba-based MTS for $3.9 billion. Shortly after in July, MTS shareholders ‘overwhelmingly’ approved the proposed acquisition. In addition, the Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench and CRTC also gave the green light for the deal to proceed and today, the final regulatory approvals were granted by both the ISED and Competition Bureau.
According to Bell and MTS, the transaction and launch of the newly formed network called “Bell MTS” will take place on March 17th, 2017.
In order to gain regulatory approval from the Competition Bureau, Bell has agreed to transfer 40 MHz of 700 MHz, AWS-1 and 2500 MHz wireless spectrum to Xplornet, a rural broadband provider. Moreover, Bell will move 24,700 wireless customers and six retail locations across the province to the regional carrier. As previously announced, Bell will also divest one-third of MTS’s subscriber base and 13 retail locations to Telus.
With this deal sealed, Bell will add 470,000 wireless subscribers to its base, which will make it the second largest carrier in Canada with 8,938,872 subscribers. By comparison, Rogers leads Canadian wireless subs with 10,274,000. Telus now has approximately 8.6 million wireless subscribers. Bell now operates wireless brands Bell Mobility, Virgin Mobile and Bell MTS.
Bell MTS will have 69 retail locations across Manitoba, and its products will also be available in Bell, The Source, Tbooth wireless and WirelessWave locations. CraveTV, Bell’s video streaming service, will be available to MTS TV customers.
George Cope, President and CEO of BCE and Bell Canada, stated, “Bell MTS will deliver the best broadband networks and unprecedented service innovation to Manitobans, growing competition, choice and value in communications throughout the province. In addition to our capital investments to roll out our Fibe and mobile LTE services in Manitoba, Bell MTS is also announcing today that we will maintain current MTS wireless price plans for at least 12 months after the closing of the acquisition.”
Meanwhile, John Pecman, commissioner of competition, said, “While today’s consent agreement is expected to address my concerns with the merger, we will continue to keep a close watch on competition in Manitoba and across Canada in the mobile wireless services market. Given the findings of our review, any future potential mergers by Canada’s three largest mobile wireless providers, Bell, Rogers and TELUS, can expect to receive a close examination by the Bureau.”