Thursday 15 March 2012

700 MHz Auction and Other Announcements on 14 Mar 12

Industry Canada published two important documents on 14 Mar 14 – Pi Day – concerning the Mobile (cellular) industry in Canada. Maybe they picked Pi Day because they feel the complaints about Mobile service in Canada by both self proclaimed experts and the OECD will go on ad infinitum just like the value of Pi.

The two documents are:

a. Proposed Revisions to the Frameworks for Mandatory Roaming and Antenna Tower and Site Sharing (hereafter referred to as Roaming/Sharing)

b. Policy and Technical Framework: Mobile Broadband Services (MBS) – 700 MHz Band, Broadband Radio Service (BRS) – 2500 MHz Band (Hereafter referred to as 700 MHz Auction Rules)

The Roaming/Sharing document asks for comments on the proposed changes to the existing policies and procedures that affect the roaming on Mobile networks and the sharing of existing or new towers and cites. Most of the proposed changes are procedural in nature involving the relationship between the various vendors, the interaction with Industry Canada, arbitration procedures and timelines/deadlines for certain actions.

Three areas which may be of general interest are: first, the proposal to do away with the current two tier roaming system in favour of a single tier system nationwide; and second, the establishment of a tower/site data base which eventually allow vendors to carry out certain engineering work without contacting the site owner; third, the application of the rules to all telecommunication tower owners and not just Mobile operators.

Previously an AWS operator like Wind needed a roaming agreement for their home frequency area i.e. Wind in the Toronto area, as well as a second agreement for areas outside the home area The new rules are an effort to allow the new AWS entrants to get there offering into new areas quickly. (This applies only to roaming charges. Users of the AWS will still need to pay the applicable long distance charges.)

The new data base will provide enough information to allow a requesting user to examine the proposed site to determine if it is feasible to use it to satisfy their needs. Currently, the requesting user has to ask the owner for the information. As can be imagined, this leaves the system open to abuse and unnecessary delay. It also costs both parties a lot of money especially if the requesting user decides not to use the site. As a side benefit, it may make it easier to identify cell site locations.

The inclusion of all telecommunications tower owners in the policy could have the effect of speeding up the process of establishing a new cell site.

The 700 MHz Auction Rules document is much more complex and will require further study before more in-depth comment can be made. However, two items that standout are that the major incumbents (Bell, Rogers and Telus) will have a cap on the total amount of spectrum they can hold and the same applies to regional carriers that are dominate in their area of operation and the whole of Northern Ontario is one of the 14 designated Tier 2 regions.

Also part of the announcement was changes to the foreign ownership rules. The current restriction of foreign ownership of Canadian telecommunications companies will be lifted for new entrants having less than 10% market share. The foreign ownership may remain in place if the company gains share though normal market growth but will not be allowed if the growth is by means of a takeover or merger.


Industry Canada expects all the changes to be in place by the time of the 700 MHz auction in early 2013.

I will publish more about the auction and the impact of the rules and changes as I complete further study of the documents.