WIND Mobile, Quebecor, Consumer Groups Applaud CRTC Wholesale Roaming Decision

Yesterday the CRTC announced it would regulate wholesale wireless roaming rates in Canada, forcing Rogers, Telus and Bell to eventually lower prices to companies such as WIND Mobile and Videotron that roam on their networks.

WIND Mobile reacted to the Commission’s report by saying “A fair, cost-based wholesale roaming regime will allow WIND Mobile to both better serve its existing customers and better provide choice to all Canadians in our markets,” noted Alek Krstajic, CEO of WIND Mobile, further adding “Enabling all Canadians – with all carriers – fair access to networks across the country will improve service and reduce prices.”

WIND Mobile previously dropped rates “by up to 90%” for roaming within Canada during the CRTC’s first wireless roaming decision which concluded the Big 3 were overcharging smaller rivals. The company says it urges the CRTC to “push ahead quickly with the cost-analysis phase” so the company can pass on savings to customers.

As for Videotron’s parent company, Quebecor, the latter called the CRTC’s move “as a step in the right direction,” noting it similarly wants to bring “consumers more competition and greater freedom of choice.” The company says the final rates decided by the CRTC will “be decisively important for the viability of genuine competition.”

The consumer group Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC), said the CRTC move means “Canadian cellphone customers are the winners,” with John Lawford, Executive Director and General Counsel for PIAC saying “The interim rate set for roaming access may still be too high; however, we believe that the costs-based rate which the CRTC expects to be in place later this fall will finally allow smaller competitors offer alternatives to the Big Three.”

The PIAC was engaged with the CRTC review of wholesale wireless services, as part of a coalition with the Groups for the Public Interest, which included the Consumers’ Association of Canada; Council of Senior Citizens’ Organizations of British Columbia; and National Pensioners Federation.

Despite the warm reactions to the CRTC decision, University of Ottawa Law Professor Michael Geist said the decision “doesn’t go far enough,” saying the lack of regulatory framework for “robust competition” means smaller players will continue to suffer against the Big 3:

What the CRTC is really doing is saying it knows best what competition should look like: a fourth wireless player that offers economically viable if somewhat inferior national service. That vision falls well short of a vibrant, competitive market with as many players and as many different services as possible and makes it likely that the Canadians will have marginally more choice, but still fall well short of the situation in other countries where consumers experience greater choice, more business models, and better pricing.

The CRTC says it will have Rogers, Telus and Bell to release final proposed rates by November 4, 2015. It’ll be interesting to see how these reduced rates translate into savings for customers on networks like WIND and Videotron. Do you think we’ll see some ‘real’ competition with this CRTC decision?