Lessons to be learned

Canada’s policy makers should take a look at AT&T’s comments following the decision to abandon the proposed acquisition of T-Mobile. The title of the press release says it all: “AT&T Ends Bid to Add Network Capacity Through T-Mobile USA Purchase”.

To meet the needs of our customers, we will continue to invest. However, adding capacity to meet these needs will require policymakers to do two things. First, in the near term, they should allow the free markets to work so that additional spectrum is available to meet the immediate needs of the U.S. wireless industry, including expeditiously approving our acquisition of unused Qualcomm spectrum currently pending before the FCC. Second, policymakers should enact legislation to meet our nation’s longer-term spectrum needs.

AT&T was prepared to spend almost $40B in the T-Mobile purchase, but the resultant concentration of the US mobile marketplace was more than regulators could accept.

But there are lessons for those that tightly control the availability of spectrum in the US and Canada as well. Carriers on both sides of the border have been challenged by massive shifts in network demand from smartphones and mobile computing. In the US, the prime 700 MHz block was auctioned off nearly 4 years ago – Canada still hasn’t firmed up plans for the auction, putting us 5 years behind assuming the rules get released early in the new year.

The mobile Internet is a dynamic industry that can be a critical driver in restoring American economic growth and job creation, but only if companies are allowed to react quickly to customer needs and market forces.

The Canadian government has an ever growing list of issues to address: foreign investment in telecom, spectrum, digital literacy and more. Will the new year bring a more proactive approach to the transition of Canada’s digital economy?

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