Ottawa Kicks Off the 700MHz Spectrum Auction Today

Cell tower

The day has arrived: the 700 MHz wireless spectrum auction will kick off today, and these high-quality airwaves will soon be available to participating carriers with one well-defined aim: to provide Canadian wireless subscribers enhanced, “high-speed wireless services on the latest technologies”.

“The 700 MHz spectrum auction is an important milestone for Canada. Soon, this high-quality spectrum will be accessible to Canadian consumers for use on the latest smartphones and tablets. The rules for this auction were designed to support more choice in our wireless market while putting the interests of consumers first,” Industry Minister James Moore said.

We have heard multiple times now that the government is “committed to protecting the best interests of Canadian consumers in the wireless sector”, and the key event, the auction that begins today, is part of that.

But don’t put too much hope into this auction. Although a “dynamic mix of Canadian companies” are in the ring to bid for spectrum, the list of competitors has shrunk since the original list of applicants was published last fall, and as of yesterday evening, there are only 10 applicants. Wind Mobile is out, so the current state of the “competition” for this valuable spectrum is favourable to the Big Three.

So, when experts said Ottawa wouldn’t raise too much money – at least compared to the previous spectrum auction held in 2008, which brought in $4.3 billion – they appear to be right. And they may be right when they say this auction will bring neither more competition nor more choice to Canadians.

Anyways, we will soon find out. You can start the guesswork, because no further information on the auction’s progress will be publicly released until the auction is over, the press release states. So, how long could this last before we find out the winners? There are only estimates, and they say the process could last weeks. Add another five days to that before the final list of winners is released, and then we’ll know where the competition in the Canadian mobile landscape is heading.