FACTBOX-Canada launches auction of prized 700 MHz airwaves

Tue Jan 14, 2014 11:23am EST
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Jan 14 (Reuters) - Canada kicked off an auction of prized wireless airwaves on Tuesday, but the last-minute withdrawal of main upstart Wind Mobile a day earlier suggests the country's largest phone companies could obtain the limited resource more cheaply than previously thought.

The 700 MHz airwaves, which are being used in the United States to build high-speed networks, are valued for their ability to penetrate buildings and travel long distances.

Here are some facts about the auction:

The process divides Canada into 14 regions, with seven spectrum blocks in each. But four of those blocks are most coveted because they align with U.S. airwaves, meaning many of the latest devices already work on the frequency. Canada's three largest operators - BCE Inc's Bell, Rogers Communications Inc, and Telus Corp - are allowed to acquire only one of these prime blocks each.

Industry Canada, the government body charged with running the auction, says it will not provide any information on bids until up to five days after the complicated process ends. Similarly constructed auctions elsewhere have recently taken between two and seven weeks.

A recent auction of similar frequencies in Australia raised A$2 billion ($1.8 billion), much less than anticipated, as some airwaves remained unsold.

Ottawa last March set minimum opening bids at C$897 million ($826 million). An auction of higher-frequency airwaves in 2008 brought in C$4.25 billion.   Continued...