Canada sets new wireless auction in bid for competition

Fri Jan 10, 2014 4:37pm EST
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By Randall Palmer and Louise Egan

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada will auction off another set of airwaves for wireless use in April 2015, structuring the rules in a way designed to boost competition and lower consumer prices, Industry Minister James Moore said on Friday.

The announcement on details of the 2,500 megahertz auction comes as the Conservative government prepares to open the bidding process for the 700 MHz spectrum on Tuesday.

The rules for both auctions limit the amount of spectrum the dominant three telecoms players - Rogers Communications Inc (RCIb.TO: Quote), Telus Corp (T.TO: Quote) and BCE Inc (BCE.TO: Quote) - can acquire in a bid to encourage at least four providers in every region.

"What's important for Canadians to know about the 2500 MHz auction is that it features rules that are specifically designed to put consumer interests first, including spectrum caps and smaller geographic license areas," Moore told a news conference in Vancouver.

The Conservative government, facing re-election next year, has placed great emphasis on the consumer, even though questions have been raised as to how successful it has been at increasing competition in the wireless sector.

The government has allowed foreigners to buy telecoms companies with less than 10 percent of the market, but not BCE, Rogers and Telus.

It has also said it was open to following the recommendations in a 2008 report on competition policy it commissioned that suggested easing foreign ownership limits on both telecom and broadcast companies.

But Moore told Reuters on Friday he was not focused on that right now. Instead he was "actively looking" at the upcoming spectrum auctions and legislation to cap wholesale wireless roaming rates that companies can charge each other - which he expects to introduce in the spring.   Continued...

Canada's Minister James Moore speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa June 18, 2013. REUTERS/Chris Wattie