Canada’s telecom regulator has put out a call for comments on the reconsideration of a decision made earlier this year that has the potential to effectively mandate Wi-Fi-first mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs).
The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission is accepting comments on the subject until September 8th, 2017, inviting interested parties to weigh in on what constitutes a ‘home network’ for the purposes of this decision, and specifically whether Wi-Fi could be included in the definition of a home network.
If Wi-Fi is eventually included in the definition — which runs counter to current policy promoting investment in facilities — the result might be the opening of an entirely new Wi-Fi-first MVNO market in Canada.
As it stands, the March decision (Telecom Decision 2017-56) sews up a loophole that allowed Wi-Fi-first MVNO Sugar Mobile to operate in all areas of the country.
The order to reconsider the decision came in early June, courtesy of Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development (ISED) Navdeep Bains.
Bains stated that the decision “does not benefit Canadians,” and cited the need to lower Canada’s notoriously high wireless prices as impetus for the shift. He noted that Wi-Fi-first MVNOs in the U.S. offer service for as little as $15 USD per month.
MVNOs sell mobile phone service by wholesale purchasing the use of another company’s existing infrastructure and then reselling service at generally lower rates.
MVNOs are not a market force in Canada due to the fact that the CRTC does not compel carriers to sell network use to providers that don’t build their own infrastructure.
This reconsideration may serve as a foothold into mandating that access through wholesale mobile roaming, just as Sugar Mobile became a ‘backdoor’ MVNO through the use of its sibling brand Ice Wireless’ roaming agreement with Rogers.
Sugar used its wholesale roaming agreement to provide fall-back wireless service to customers when not in its Northern home network, though its service was marketed and sold to Canadians outside of its Northern footprint.
After receiving complaints from Rogers, the CRTC moved to disallow Sugar customers from using Rogers roaming network as a primary source of service for its customers, noting that it went against its previous decision not to mandate MVNO access to the incumbents’ networks.
The CRTC has been directed to complete its reconsideration by no later than March 31st, 2018.