June 17, 2008 / 2:53 PM / in 10 years

Canada wireless auction to end "shortly"

TORONTO (Reuters) - Canada’s auction of the airwaves over which wireless services are delivered is slated to end within days, an Industry Canada spokesman said on Tuesday.

“It won’t be today for sure,” the spokesman said regarding the auction, which has thus far raised some C$3.77 billion ($3.7 billion) in revenue.

“We are expecting the auction to finish shortly,” he said. “It may be a couple of days, it may be next week -- we don’t know. As long as there are bids coming in, it’s continuing.”

The wireless-spectrum auction kicked off late last month and has attracted a long list of bidders, including the country’s three dominant carriers -- BCE Inc, Telus Corp and Rogers Communications Inc.

In laying out the auction rules, the federal government set aside a portion of spectrum exclusively for bidding on by new entrants, hoping this would stimulate competition.

Such newcomers have included publishing and media group, Quebecor Inc and Globalive Communications Corp, which operates the Yak wireless brand.

The three dominant carriers have complained that such spectrum “set-asides” amount to an unfair subsidy.

The new entrants -- as well as many customers -- have in turn charged the big three providers with keeping a chokehold on the country’s wireless market, leading to costlier service plans and bigger bills for users.

($1=$1.02 Canadian)

Reporting by Wojtek Dabrowski; Editing by Bernadette Baum

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