Industry Canada published the list of applicants for those companies that would like to bid in the upcoming 700 MHz auction.
The biggest surprise appears to be that there are no surprises. Despite its best efforts, no new foreign companies have been attracted to Canada’s mobile market.
Industry Canada will need to examine relationships between the bidders (and the companies behind the bidders) in order to ensure that there is no potential for bidding collusion or circumvention of the rules, but there are no new deep pockets threatening to disrupt the Canadian wireless marketplace.
As I described last week, we do not know anything about where these companies plan to bid, or which companies plan to bid for more than one block.
There are 14 different geographic areas that cover the whole of Canada; initial bid prices depend on the population and the amount of spectrum being acquired. Each bid point requires a deposit of $130,000 and covers about 100,000 people per block of 5 or 6 MHz. The paired blocks of spectrum have increased bid points required in the more populous geographies so 1,221 bid points are required for a national paired block license, versus 334 bid points for an unpaired block. A 5% down payment had to be submitted with the application last Tuesday; the remainder is due on October 29. Links to the relevant sections of the Industry Canada rules can be found in last week’s blog post.
It was widely reported last week that none of the major US carriers (AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint) were planning to participate in the Canadian auction. Perhaps some of them were unwilling to face the regulatory risk of being unable to sell at some point in the future. When the federal government denied the TELUS request to acquire Mobilicity, it changed the rules set out in the original AWS auction. As I wrote in late July, “Had the government simply said that the original AWS rules called for a 5 year hold and the acquisition was premature, that would be one understandable, and consistent message.”
Instead, the government continued its game of Calvinball, keeping us all guessing on what the rules will govern multi-billion dollar investments. A favourable investment climate doesn’t just mean that foreign money is welcome. Investors need to be confident about the rules are for taking their money out again.
In its zeal to prevent “undue spectrum concentration—and therefore diminish competition”, did the government’s June 4 announcement diminish the attractiveness of investment in Canadian wireless?