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SaskTel: We Might Miss Out on Upcoming AWS-3 Wireless Spectrum Auction

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Earlier this week Industry Canada set out rules for its AWS-3 wireless spectrum auction, set to take place in March 2015. While the new auction looks to bring smaller wireless entrants into the mix thanks to their set-aside spectrum, regional carrier SaskTel says it might miss out on the rest of the airwaves.

Of the 50 MHz AWS-3 wireless spectrum available, 30 MHz (or 60%) will be set aside for new entrants such as WIND Mobile or Mobilicity. That leaves the remaining 20 MHz (or 40%) left for incumbents Rogers, Telus and Bell to bid on—but it also includes regional carriers SaskTel and MTS to compete with the ‘Big 3’.

Speaking the Leader Post, John Meldrum, vice-president of regulatory affairs and legal counsel for SaskTel said “In this case, we could be squeezed out completely.” He went on to say:

“We’re in the Big Four, I guess. In Saskatchewan and Manitoba, it’s going to be the four of us chasing that (20 MHz),’’

[…]

“It’s wide open. That’s the best way to describe it.”

Although the AWS-3 spectrum doesn’t have the range of the coveted 700 MHz band, it is still useful for providing high speed service to towns and cities, but won’t help coverage for farms and acreages between those populated areas.

Meldrum says if there are few bids on the 30 MHz in Saskatchewan, the federal government put it in unsold inventory and sell it off at a later date, or to another provider. Wireless carriers have to be already up and running in the areas they want to make bids on:

“You’re going to have a free-for-all on the 20 MHz … but the 30 MHz you have to be a new entrant providing service in that area (to bid).”

Critics of the set-aside spectrum for newer entrants include Bell, which earlier said the move would be a “cost to taxpayers”.

Earlier today, SaskTel launched sales of Apple’s cellular iPads, available on contract.

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