Competition Bureau to CRTC: High Rates Charged by ‘Big 3’ are “Not in the Public Interest”

The CRTC has kick-started its week-long hearing in Gatineau, Quebec today as it attempts to determine if the wireless wholesale market is competitive enough in nature, as the majority of airwaves are dominated by Rogers, Telus and Bell.

Senior economist Patrick Hughes, from the Competition Bureau noted at the hearing “outsized returns the incumbent carriers are making from their wireless divisions are evidence that the market is distorted”, according to the Financial Post’s Claire Brownell, currently reporting on the hearings.

Hughes says if the Big 3 charge wireless upstarts expensive wholesale wireless rates, those will be passed onto consumers:

“We ask why the incumbents are doing this. What’s the incentive? The incentive to us are the margins in the retail market,” Mr. Hughes said. “This… is not in the public interest.”

CRTC chairman Jean-Pierre Blais says no final outcomes have been determined yet, on whether the wholesale wireless industry is competitive enough and requires regulation.

“We have not come to any predetermined views,” Mr. Blais said. “Competition in the wireless industry benefits Canadian society in many ways, including by providing access to high-quality networks, innovative services and reasonable prices.”

Cogeco Cable also told the CRTC it is in favour of the Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNO) model, which would see incumbents required to let smaller carriers use their networks. The company wants to become a regional wireless carrier using MVNO, instead of seeing a new fourth national carrier building its own network.

As for WIND Mobile, which is currently speaking at the hearing, the company says interim wholesale roaming caps set by the government are not enough, but do help. Overall, WIND says it wants more affordable roaming around the main cities its current network presides, in particular major markets like Toronto.

Mobilicity is also expected to speak at the hearings today.

…more to follow