Canada raises C$2.11 billion in wireless airwaves auction

Fri Mar 6, 2015 10:05am EST
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By Alastair Sharp

TORONTO (Reuters) - Canadian wireless operators led by Telus Corp (T.TO: Quote) paid C$2.11 billion ($1.68 billion) in a government auction of airwaves this week, with small operators paying far less than established players under a plan to spur competition.

In announcing the results on Friday, Industry Minister James Moore said the country's biggest wireless operator, Rogers Communications Inc (RCIb.TO: Quote), did not win any spectrum. Small new-entrant Wind Mobile paid the minimum C$56.4 million for spectrum in populous British Columbia, Alberta and southern Ontario after its struggling rival Mobilicity did not bid.

Wind said its haul of airwaves will allow it to update its network to a level comparable to that of the Canadian industry's three dominant players: Telus, Rogers, and BCE Inc (BCE.TO: Quote).

A U.S. auction of similar airwaves raised a record $44.9 billion in January.

Most of the airwaves, a finite resource that phone companies rely on, were offered in single regional blocks that the government had marked off-limits to the three big companies.

Those set-aside blocks - 60 percent of the total in each region - were not taken up in the Western provinces of Manitoba and Saskatchewan and in the country's northern territories.

Telus paid C$1.51 billion for airwaves across Canada's most populous provinces, while its network-sharing partner, BCE's Bell, picked up the spectrum in Atlantic Canada, in the north, and some in southern Ontario for just under C$500 million.

Regional operator Quebecor Inc (QBRb.TO: Quote), which has said it would consider national expansion, paid C$31.8 million for airwaves in eastern Ontario and in its home base in French-speaking Quebec.   Continued...