New Wireless auction results point to improved wireless service choice for Canadians
Industry Minister James Moore has announced the outcome of the AWS-3 wireless spectrum auction. Proactive spectrum rules appear to have ensured independent providers have the infrastructure they need to expand services.
For Immediate Release
March 6, 2014– Industry Minister James Moore has just announced the outcome of the key AWS-3 wireless spectrum auction that took place on March 3, 2015. Due in part to rules set up to increase choice for Canadians, independent cell phone service Wind successfully obtained an important portion of spectrum in this auction. Wind grew it’s spectrum assets by 180% in Alberta, BC, and Ontario.
According to Industry Canada, Canada’s new wireless competitors increased their spectrum holdings by 107% on average. For context, after this auction the Big Three will still control 75% of the available spectrum, but in in 2006 they controlled 98% of the spectrum. The Auction raised 2.11 billion dollars overall. While the Big Three (Rogers, Telus, Bell) still control the vast majority of Canada’s available spectrum, it is expected the outcome of this auction will begin to balance the scales for Wind and other non-incumbent cell phone companies to provide faster data services on a more level playing field.
The rules announced by Moore last July, set aside one 30 MHz block of AWS-3 spectrum that only new entrants with less than 10% national and 20% provincial/territorial market share were eligible to bid on. Moore’s rules fit with policy recommendations OpenMedia has advocated. AWS-3 wireless spectrum is a resource required for delivering quality, next-generation wireless services including fast LTE speeds.
OpenMedia is welcoming the news as a positive step forward for wireless choice, but notes that more action will be needed to ensure every Canadian has an affordable alternative to the Big Three. Canadians currently pay some of the highest prices in the industrialized world for wireless service. “Minister Moore has listened to Canadians and we’re beginning to see the positive outcome with a new cell provider now better able to take on the Big Three and provdider great wireless choice for Canadians.” says OpenMedia.ca Executive Director Steve Anderson. “It’s past time for Canada’s large Telecoms to stop squatting on vital digital assets. I hope this is just the beginning and that we’ll see more action along the lines of what leading experts and innovators called for in a letter to Minister Moore last year. We’ll also be looking for Mr. Moore to announce how he’ll be spending the 2.11 billion raised off of these public spectrum assets. These funds should obviously be fully invested in ensuring all Canadians enjoy world class broadband access.”
The Big Three (Telus, Rogers, Bell) currently control over 90% of the wireless market. They have used this power to keep prices high by blocking Canadians from more affordable providers. Experts say Canadians won’t see a sustained reduction in wireless prices until our networks are fully opened up to ensure all providers can operate on a level playing field.
The spectrum rules that helped ensure resources were set-aside for independent providers came in response to a long-term campaign led by OpenMedia.ca to open cell phone infrastructure to new more affordable providers.
More and more Canadians are speaking out against the Big Three’s activities to block access to content and services at: http://unblockCanada.ca
Executive Director, OpenMedia
The Conservative government’s 2011 platform promised “to increase competition and choice and to lower costs for wireless consumers”. Source: Conservative Party 2011 Platform, page 15
For an explanation of why your high cell phone bill has nothing to do with Canada's size, check out this article by OpenMedia.ca's Catherine Hart.
Industry Canada clearly stated that only "new entrants" were eligible for the AWS wireless spectrum set aside in 2008. Industry Canada further stated that “changes made after the application deadline which create an Association with another applicant are not permitted, and any applicant who has formed such an Association will be disqualified from participating in the auction.” Source: Industry Canada
Canada’s wireless industry is overwhelmingly dominated by Bell, Telus, and Rogers. Source:The Globe and Mail
Recent independent reports confirm that Canadians pay some of the highest prices in the world for cell phone service. Source: OECD 2013 Communications Outlook
Background on Spectrum. Source: Public Interest Advocacy Centre
OpenMedia.ca is an award-winning community-based organization that safeguards the possibilities of the open Internet. We work toward informed and participatory digital policy by engaging hundreds of thousands of people in protecting our online rights.
About OpenMedia’s Demand Choice campaign
The Demand Choice campaign was launched to pressure decision-makers to take action for greater choice and lower prices in Canada’s cell phone market. Early in 2012 OpenMedia.ca launched a campaign decrying the price-gouging poor customer service and lack of choice in the cell phone market at StopTheSqueeze.ca.
OpenMedia.ca then highlighted Canadians’ Cell Phone Horror Stories in a crowdsourced submission to the CRTC, and released a citizen-driven report entitled‘Time for an Upgrade’detailing their findings and recommendations.This citizen pressure resulted in a broadly positive new set of customer-friendly rules for wireless companies – national rules that reign in punitive three-year contracts, make it easier to switch to a new affordable provider, and impose caps on data roaming fees.
The Big Three cell phone providers recently unleashed an expensive PR campaign to mislead cell phone users. Canadians took to the Internet to ridicule and debunk the Big Three’s claims in a wide variety of ways - speaking out on reddit and on Facebook, and even creating parody websites, parody videos on YouTube and parody accounts on Twitter. We’ve also seen citizen-produced op-eds appear in newspapers across the country, taking the Big Three to task for their years of terrible customer service.