The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) announced a bold move to foster wireless competition: it will regulate certain wholesale rates that Bell, Rogers, and Telus charge smaller carriers. The interim rates are effective today, but the regulator is requiring the incumbents to file final proposed rates by November 4, 2015.
It started one-and-a-half years ago: following complaints of unjust discriminatory practices against smaller wireless players, the CRTC announced that it would examine wholesale roaming rates. Half a year later, it announced the ban of exclusivity clauses in roaming agreements and capped the rates.
Seven months ago, the regulator launched hearings aimed to scan the country’s wholesale wireless market. It took seven long months, but today the CRTC released its recommendations on the matter.
“With more than 28 million subscribers, the wireless sector is of tremendous importance to Canada’s economy. Innovation that leverages the use of wireless networks now forms part of our daily life and the important role of wireless technology increases each and every day. With microcomputers that fit in our palm, pocket or purses, we can do our banking, check up on our kids or elderly parents, apply for jobs, register for Government services or stay in contact with our friends, co-workers or clients. The measures that we are putting in place today in the wireless market will ensure that Canadians continue to have more choice as well as innovative high-quality services,” said Jean-Pierre Blais, Chairman of the CRTC.
When the CRTC imposed the — temporary — wholesale roaming cap, the regulator didn’t consider important aspects of such a ruling. While this was a great step forward for many smaller players negotiating deals with incumbents, it turned against them in scenarios when the incumbents negotiated agreements with them in areas where local players had better network coverage (consider SaskTel, MTS and Videotron). These two carriers have contacted the CRTC and said the roaming rules need some fine tuning, as the rules are hurting their business in their current form, hence killing competition.
Today’s ruling aims to solve this matter and foster wireless competition in the country. It will do that by recommending that the government repeal the roaming caps (introduced earlier) that remain in place. Also, it aims to take action to reduce the roadblocks that MVNO (mobile virtual network operators) face.