UPDATE 2-Canada unveils major wireless spectrum plan

Thu Dec 18, 2014 5:18pm EST
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(Adds analyst comment, context)

By Alastair Sharp

TORONTO Dec 18 (Reuters) - The Canadian government unveiled a major update to its wireless airwave policy on Thursday, as it seeks to lower cellphone bills and bolster its coffers ahead of a federal election next year.

The plan for making more of the invisible infrastructure available for fast-growing mobile uses like video includes an auction of high-frequency AWS-3 spectrum beginning on March 3.

The same frequency of airwaves is being auctioned in the United States - raising $44 billion so far - which should encourage device makers to produce compatible gadgets.

The Canadian government, eager to promote competition to lower prices, said overall spectrum available for mobile services will have grown almost 60 percent by May compared with early this year.

By that point, a quarter of all wireless spectrum will be held by companies other than the three dominant national wireless providers - Rogers Communications Inc, Telus Corp and BCE Inc's Bell - that had previously controlled some 97 percent of the airwaves, Industry Minister James Moore said at an event in Vancouver.

The plan, which includes blocking those three from bidding on some airwaves, should stimulate competition in wireless "through support of new entrants and ensuring that they will have access to the spectral resources they need," telecom analyst Iain Grant, of Seaboard Group, said.

Critics questioned whether a policy in support of small companies was making best use of the finite spectrum.   Continued...