Monday 28 January 2013

PIAC Challenges the Rogers/Shaw AWS Spectrum Deal

As predicted in the blog entry of 15 Jan 2013, the usual group of suspects have launched a campaign to get Industry Canada (IC) to reject the Rogers/Shaw deal which will see Rogers acquire unused AWS (Advanced Wireless Spectrum in the 1700/2100 MHz band) from Shaw once the moratorium on AWS spectrum transfer runs out in 2014.

The lead organizers of the appeal are PIAC, the somewhat misnamed, in my opinion, Public Interest Advocacy Centre and Open [sic] There are also a number of west coast based groups that usually operate as part of the Open [sic] umbrella involved in what is at the moment mainly a letter writing and e-mail campaign.

Reasonable arguments can be made for both sides of this debate. On the "let it go through" side, if Rogers does not acquire the spectrum, there is little likelihood that the existing AWS operators will actually start using the spectrum in the Algoma District within the foreseeable future. On the "stop it" side, allowing Rogers to acquire the spectrum will on the surface only increase what is perceived as an oligopoly with the existing big 3 vendors.

How IC will react to the challenge is anyone's guess. I feel there are two critical areas of concern that the may affect the course of government action:

a. Will IC make a decision or announcement before of after the 700 MHz spectrum auction? Depending on where the appeal stands in the decision making process, it may directly affect who will participate in the auction and therefore the revenue the government will receive from the auction.

b. How will the decision affect future takeover bids? There have been persistent rumours of the incumbents taking over one or more of the new entrant AWS carriers since they went on the air. Any decision affecting the Rogers/Shaw deal will undoubtedly set precedence for future acquisition plans.

I am sure there will be more action in this arena in the not too distant future as all parties crank up their communication and public relation campaigns.

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