Spectrum auction rules likely mean more of Bell, Rogers and Telus

PIAC's Michael Janigan is hopeful
newcomers will be active in the
spectrum auction but...
(CBC photo)
Strengthening of wireless competition is no sure thing, telecom consumer group says

The Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) was a participant in the design of the auction process both for the 2008 Spectrum auction, and the development of the framework announced today. PIAC’s interests are in ensuring access and affordable prices and choices for ordinary consumers.

“Spectrum auctions  are meant  to  provide  outcomes  that best meet the public interest”, said Michael Janigan, Executive Director and General Counsel of PIAC. “That is not always synonymous with getting the most money," he added.

Currently, the wireless market is still dominated by 3 major players who can exercise market power to the detriment of wireless consumers. The 2008 auction set the stage for new entrant competition that has shown some promise in its ability to provide some price and service rivalry.  Janigan noted that the government decision tried to maintain the competitive momentum, but leaves uncertainty with respect to the future of those new entrants and the fledging competition.

While the partial lifting of ownership controls may help new entrant financing, the discontinuance of set asides of spectrum likely continues the overwhelming dominance by the big players. Spectrum  caps do not necessarily allay concern about  the relative size and access to a significant contiguous block of spectrum by competitors. ‘We’ll see how the financial backers of new entrants view this package fairly soon”, predicted Janigan. “ Hopefully, the newcomers will be active participants in the auction”.

Janigan said that while the government was inclined to be sympathetic to consumer and competition concerns, it had been squeezed by the predictions of service failure  made by the big 3 wireless providers unless they got access to spectrum without set-asides. Janigan noted PIAC's disappointment that the public use set aside for innovation and common use had also not been accepted. He also hoped that the mandatory roaming and tower sharing provisions of the Decision were implemented and enforced  to ensure consumer friendly results.

Federal government news release

Harper Government Takes Action to Support Canadian Families

Today's announcement will provide Canadian families with more choices at low prices for wireless services

Russell, Ontario, March 14, 2012—Today, the Honourable Christian Paradis, Minister of Industry, announced that the Harper Government will be taking action to provide Canadian families with more choices at low prices for wireless services.

"The Harper Government understands that Canadian families work hard for their money and that they want their government to make decisions that will help them keep more of it," said Minister Paradis. "The measures I am outlining today will ensure the timely availability of world-class wireless services at low prices for Canadian families, including those in rural areas."