Vidéotron in Alberta Means Lower Prices, More Competition: CEO

Pierre Karl Peladeau, CEO of Québecor, the parent company of Montreal-based Vidéotron, believes the telecom operator’s expansion into Alberta will benefit the province in more ways than one — reports The Calgary Herald.

Vidéotron has always been a champion of competition in the Canadian telecom industry, but its reach was previously limited mainly to Quebec. That changed this summer when Vidéotron won $830 million worth of radio spectrum in Canada’s 3500 MHz 5G spectrum auction.

Soon after the auction, Vidéotron announced plans to expand its wireless services into Western Canada, including Alberta, and compete with the country’s Big Three (Rogers, Bell, and Telus) on the national scale.

With wireless prices in Canada among the highest in the world, the government, regulators, and the public alike have longed for a strong fourth competitor in the industry.

Many had hoped Shaw Communications, the fourth largest telecom operator in Canada, would fill those shoes. However, Shaw is currently in the process of being acquired by Rogers Communications Inc., a deal that is currently being reviewed by the Competition Bureau.

With Vidéotron making public its intentions to expand nationwide, Big Telecom immediately started petitioning courts to block Vidéotron’s 5G spectrum licenses in Western Canada.

Telus had sought an injunction in Federal Court to suspend Vidéotron’s purchase of 5G spectrum licenses, claiming the telco wasn’t eligible to participate in the auction. Last week, however, a judge dismissed the claim. “The decisive factor is the public interest in fostering greater competition in the market for mobile phone services,” said the ruling.

Peladeau said his company plans on building its own network infrastructure in Alberta and the rest of Western Canada over the next seven years. The CEO believes doing so will not only decrease wireless pricing by increasing competition in the region, but will also provide engineering, retail, and marketing jobs in these new locations.

In the meantime, Vidéotron expects to piggyback on existing wireless infrastructure in these regions, which the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) now requires the larger telecom operators to allow.

Vidéotron is also looking for a head-start through a planned acquisition of Freedom Mobile, a division of Shaw Communications. “We made public our interest to buy Freedom. Because of the family feud it isn’t easy to understand where this will go, but they know very well our interest — we have made that loud and clear,” said Peladeau.

“We can build upon Freedom because it is known and we can build upon improving that capacity.”

Peladeau also pointed to the fact that Vidéotron is not, strictly speaking, a new player in the market. He added that the company is used to going toe to toe with the same competition it currently faces in Western Canada, and has done exactly that, impressively so, over the past 15 years in Quebec.

“We are not a brand-new wireless operator. We know what this business is all about and we know the Canadian landscape. We are also well known within the financial markets, because all this needs the capacity to raise money.”

“All the ingredients for a very successful recipe are there and we will move forward as quick as possible,” concluded the CEO.