Canada's telecoms fight over spectrum auction rules
By Alastair Sharp
TORONTO (Reuters) - The next government auction of valuable wireless spectrum in Canada is still at least a year and a half away, but the fight among telecom companies over how the auction should be run is already in full swing.
The big issue is whether any of the prime 700 MHz airwaves need be set aside for new entrants to the market as was the case in the government auction of wireless spectrum in 2008.
At the time, Canada's Conservative government was pushing for more competition in wireless, long dominated by three companies: BCE Inc's Bell Canada unit, Rogers Communications and Telus Corp.
The "Big Three" -- which together hold 95 percent of the market -- say the new entrants need no more help.
Among the companies seeking a bigger piece of the Big Three's pie are Mobilicity and Globalive's foreign-funded Wind Mobile service, as well as established regional cable companies Shaw Communications and Quebecor's Videotron.
"Everybody needs it (700 MHz spectrum), everybody wants it, and the only way to sort that out is to have a wide open auction," said Ken Engelhart, senior vice-president for regulatory affairs at Rogers. That message was echoed by his counterparts at Bell and Telus, which share a national wireless network.
Engelhart said putting caps on how much spectrum any one buyer can grab in the auction, due by late 2012, would be a mistake and that fears of hoarding -- holding the spectrum without rolling out service -- could be allayed by making rollout a condition of purchase.
An open auction would almost certainly ensure that the three cash-rich incumbents get the lion's share of the spectrum. Continued...