Big 3 to Ottawa: Abandon your Search for ‘Unicorn’ Fourth Player

Big 3 carriers canada

Canada’s Big 3 carriers met with the federal Liberal Party today to coerce Ottawa to ditch its search to attract a fourth national wireless player and rather focus efforts on improving service to rural communities, reports the Globe and Mail.

Senior officials from both small and large wireless players debated for over two hours today in a round table discussion organized by Liberal MP Judy Sgro in an unofficial meeting in Ottawa.

It was here Ted Woodhead, a senior vice-president with Telus suggested the Conservative government should abandon its “search for the unicorn fourth player in every market,” saying telecom firms require critical mass in order to compete.

Mirko Bibic, executive vice-president with Bell, reiterated the Big 3 players each have less than 10 million subscribers each, compared to Verizon’s 100 million. This modest user base, according to Bibic, makes it difficult for players to address customer demands:

“What does that mean? It means that when Bell, Rogers and Telus want handsets, when they go see Samsung and when they go see iPhone, you take what they give you,” said Mr. Bibic. “You can’t say ‘I want an iPhone, but it’s gotta work on this spectrum, because this is the spectrum I have.’ They say ‘go away’.”

Jonathan Holmes, executive director of the Independent Telecommunications Providers Association, representing individual wireless firms, argued small regional firms can be competitive–especially if they focus on regional service and are charged reasonable fees by rivals when roaming on their networks; he said “It’s just a question of opportunity for the smaller carriers.”

Bernard Lord, President of the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association, said the Federal government’s approach will not broaden service to rural areas due to current wireless rules in place:

“This is one of the things that has been repeated by certain government officials that this next auction will help rural Canada. Well, not with the rules that are in place,”

The 700MHz wireless spectrum auction application deadline is tomorrow at noon EDT, with players required to have 5% pre-auction deposits submitted to Ottawa. Questions remain whether foreign players will have submitted applications for the auction, set for January 2014.

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