Shaw’s Freedom Mobile Possibly Another Wireless Blunder: Globe

Looking back over Shaw Communication’s past 20 years of activity, the Globe and Mail’s Rita Trichur concludes that the launch of Freedom Mobile (formerly known as Wind Mobile) seems like “yet another blunder”.

Freedom mobile

The reason is pretty straightforward considering Shaw’s wireless strategy over the past 20 years. The company has been wanting to do wireless for quite some time: it started with Fido. Shaw was one of the early investors in Microcell Telecommunications, which launched the Fido brand in 1996. But after pouring millions into the company, Shaw sold its near 10% share two years later to focus on its core business.

Fast forward seven years and we see Shaw’s CEO again claiming the company would roll out a cellphone service within six months. This likely involved a wholesale agreement with an established carrier, but since no deal materialized, Shaw again changed its mind.

But three years later, in 2008, it spent $190 million to licence public airwaves and announced plans to become a new carrier in the West, Prairies and Northern Ontario. Fast forward another three years and Shaw concludes that it doesn’t make any sense to invest $1 billion to build a cellphone network, so it sold its airwave licences to Rogers for $350 million. That was in 2015.

The same year, Shaw announced it was buying new entrant carrier Wind Mobile for $1.6 billion. Now Shaw poses as a new entrant in a market where the majority of subscribers own a smartphone and the market is dominated by three players: Rogers, Bell and Telus.

Now, Shaw has built its LTE service but has to fight the established carriers for every new customer. The strategy for that seems to be missing, however.

And there is a major problem: none of the trendy smartphones from Apple or Samsung operate on the LTE band of spectrum Shaw owns with Freedom Mobile. So, from this perspective, the whole wireless strategy is a “hot mess”, Trichur concludes.

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