UPDATE 3-Canada steps in to stimulate wireless competition

Thu Mar 7, 2013 1:07pm EST
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* Government sets Nov. 19 to start 700 MHz spectrum auction

* Puts floor on opening bids totaling C$897 million

* Expands roaming, cell tower sharing rules

* No immediate plans to lift foreign limits on big telcos

By Randall Palmer and Alastair Sharp

OTTAWA/TORONTO, March 7 (Reuters) - The Canadian government said on Thursday it would start the process of auctioning more prime wireless spectrum on Nov. 19 and announced other steps designed to stimulate competition and reduce high roaming charges.

In selling carriers the rights to use the additional frequencies for wireless service, Ottawa aims to assure at least four competitors serve each region of the country. To accomplish that, it will limit the three dominant carriers, BCE Inc's Bell , Rogers Communications Inc and Telus Corp , to three of four prime blocks in each area.

"Our government's priority is to provide greater wireless coverage at lower rates for consumers," Industry Minister Christian Paradis said in a statement.

Canada's wireless market, which has some of the highest roaming charges in the world, is dominated by Bell, Rogers and Telus, which together command a 90 percent share.   Continued...