Published: 15 March, 2012
Canada is the latest country to run into disputes over its 4G auction rules, with new player Wind Mobile threatening to boycott the sale over proposed spectrum caps.
The company, owned by VimpelCom of Russia, says the rules would not enable small cellcos to win sufficient spectrum to launch viable LTE services. The regulator, Industry Canada, plans to sell 700MHz licences early next year and 2.5GHz frequencies within another 12 months. But it will not earmark spectrum for new entrants as it did (controversially) for the AWS sale in 2008, which ushered Wind (then called Globalive), Mobilicity and Public Mobile into the market.
Critics say that policy did not succeed in introducing new competitors capable of making a real impact on the big three (Bell, Telus and Rogers Wireless). And Christian Paradis, minister of Industry Canada, does not plan to pursue the same policy again. Instead, it will try to limit the triumvirate's power through caps. The three incumbents will be limited to one 10MHz block apiece in each of the 14 operating regions. That will leave a fourth 10MHz block for smaller bidders - new entrants, regional providers such as MTS AllStream or SaskTel, or the minor 3G carriers. Canada also proposes to set aside 10MHz in the 700MHz band for public safety.
Wind and Mobilicity are not happy at the new rules, though the latter has just criticized them as a "compromise", and said it would "bid aggressively" nonetheless. However, the former is threatening to stay out of the auction. CEO Anthony Lacavera told Reuters: "As I understand that cap system, we will not bid", as the 10MHz effectively reserved for smaller operators would be insufficient to build a full LTE network. Companies like MetroPCS, which have deployed 4G in limited amounts of bandwidth, are unable to deliver peak speeds or some of the more demanding broadband services.
He added in the interview: "There's technically no way for us to roll out LTE. This is a classically Canadian solution, which on the surface looks like they gave all market players an opportunity, but at the end of the day what they've actually done is hurt the Canadian wireless industry and therefore hurt Canadian consumers."