Sometime in the next couple of years, the Government will be holding another spectrum auction as television broadcasters are moved to digital from analog (which frees up airwaves to be re-purposed for mobile phones). This type of auction doesn’t happen often, so the stakes are high. The last was in mid-2008, when we secured enough spectrum to launch in Canada and operate as a national wireless carrier – the first new player to enter the industry in over ten years. Even though the spectrum we won in that auction was spectrum the Big Three could not bid on, it was still very expensive… Almost $450 million.
This time around, it’s 700 MHZ spectrum. This spectrum is like “beachfront property” – it covers more ground and is better able to reach within buildings than most other spectrum. These qualities are imperative in today’s tech-driven world of smart phones and Internet on-the-go.
Even though WIND Mobile launched just over a year ago (using the spectrum we won in the 2008 auction), Canadians are already enjoying lower prices, no contract options, the elimination of so-called “system access fees”, more innovative products and better customer service. In order to continue to improve product offerings and service, we need to be able to compete with the same tools as the incumbents.
But we’re just getting started.
The upcoming 700 MHZ auction will continue to shape the future of wireless competition in Canada. Every stakeholder wants to influence how the auction will be held and on Monday, all parties were invited to file submissions with Industry Canada outlining how they felt the spectrum should be divided.
In our case, we argued that all of the 700MHZ spectrum should be set aside for only new entrants to bid on (like last time). Why? Because the Big Three don’t need it, and we do, and they will do anything, and pay anything, to keep us from getting it. The Big Three are among the most spectrum-rich operators in the entire world and are already sitting on vast amounts of unused spectrum (we call it warehousing). The Big Three acquiring and sitting on all this spectrum doesn’t do you, the consumers, any good. In fact, it hurts because it is yet another way they seek to limit competition.
The spectrum they are sitting on, by the way, includes all of the spectrum they bought in the 2008 auction. Good thing there was spectrum set aside in that auction and good for the Government for resisting the Big Three’s arguments (they are making the same arguments this time around, of course).
We want to see this spectrum benefit consumers. Spectrum in the hands of new entrants like WIND Mobile will help take Canada (finally!) out of the dark ages of wireless. Competition is the #1 key to better wireless choice and value in Canada, but new entrants like us need spectrum. Oh, and we’ll use it!
Industry Canada is expected to set the auction rules later this year so we will keep you posted.