CRTC Says Cellphone Competition in Canada Coming with New Rules

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) has today established the final rules for mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) access, a move it says will “increase cellphone service competition in Canada.”

The CRTC laid out an initial policy enabling regional cellphone providers to operate as MVNOs all across the nation in 2021. This policy mandates that large cellphone companies must share their networks with their rivals. As a result, these regional competitors, with access to more extensive networks, can now expand their services into areas of Canada that they could not previously reach.

As per the newly set rules, companies have a window of 90 days to negotiate MVNO access agreements. The CRTC anticipates that soon after these agreements are in place, regional competitors will begin offering plans in the newly accessible parts of Canada. The commission is committed to ensuring that negotiations are concluded swiftly, thereby increasing the options for cellphone services for Canadians, it said on Tuesday.

“The CRTC is taking action to promote competition in the cellphone services market. Today’s decision builds on our efforts to ensure that Canadians benefit from lower prices and more choice for telecommunications services,” said CRTC Chairperson and CEO, Vicky Eatrides. Again, big words from the CRTC to say they’re doing so much to help Canadians.

Now, there’s a catch with MVNOs in Canada. The CRTC rules in 2021 limit MVNO capabilities only to regional operators that have purchased spectrum and existing facilities. So this means pure MVNO upstarts like we’ve seen in the U.S. such as Mint Mobile won’t be able to set up shop in Canada. In other words, only established regional telcos will be able to buy and resell spectrum from big incumbents Rogers, Telus and Bell.

At the time of the CRTC decision on MVNOs in 2021, many operators blasted the decision as “toothless” and favouring established incumbents still.