Consumer Groups: Rogers-Shaw Wireless Deal Will Mean Less Competition [Update]

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According to a report from the Canadian Press, consumer and public advocacy groups believe if Rogers is able to complete its purchase of Shaw’s unused AWS wireless spectrum in 2014, it will result in less competition for consumers.

The Public Interest Advocacy Centre, Consumers’ Association of Canada,, the Samuelson-Glushko Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic and the Council of Senior Citizens Organizations of British Columbia all oppose the sale of Shaw’s spectrum to Shaw:

“We are all of the view that such a proposed sale runs contrary to the original AWS auction rules of the set-aside and, most importantly, contradicts your ministry’s clear policy to preserve that spectrum for new wireless entrants,” the groups wrote in their letter.

“The Shaw-Rogers announcement seeks to return that spectrum to an incumbent wireless provider, in conflict with both the letter and spirit of the AWS auction rules. This brazen announcement in our view should immediately be countered by your ministry. We call upon you to assure Canadian wireless consumers that this government is committed to advancing real competition that lowers prices and increases consumers’ choices of wireless providers.”

John Lawford from the Public Interest Adovacy Centre says if the deal goes through, it will cement  once again only three major wireless carriers in Canada:

“The really short answer is: Then there were only three,” said Lawford, the group’s executive director and general counsel.

“More players actually have an effect on lowering prices and giving people a choice and better plans,” he said from Ottawa.

Lawford reiterates any deal would have to be granted approval by Ottawa, even after the five year waiting period established by Industry Canada which forbids the selling of newly-purchased spectrum by new entrants. He believes if the federal government has a “backbone” the deal will not be approved.

The Rogers deal for Shaw’s spectrum is part of a larger $700 million cable deal which includes a  $50 million option to acquire the unused spectrum in 2014. Rogers says it will use the spectrum to further expand its next generation LTE networks.

The Canadian government has long tried to introduce more wireless competition in Canada. Recent changes to telecom foreign ownership rules has allowed WIND Mobile to become the country’s first foreign-owned carrier.

What do you think? Will the Rogers acquisition of Shaw’s wireless spectrum result in less competition as mentioned by these consumer groups?

Update: WIND Mobile has also filed a complaint against the Shaw-Rogers deal, according to The Globe and Mail:

Simon Lockie, Wind’s chief regulatory officer, said the carrier has filed its own complaint with Ottawa about the Rogers-Shaw option agreement: “Wind Mobile considers the announced deal a clear violation of the AWS spectrum policy and we have written a letter to Industry Canada and the Minister expressing our concerns. We have every confidence that Industry Canada will deal with this violation swiftly and firmly.”