Mark Goldberg


Will Calvinball return?

On October 3, the CRTC concluded the oral hearing portion of its “Review of wholesale mobile wireless services” with a statement: “as stated in the Notice of Consultation, we expect to issue a decision within four months of the close of the record.”

The record closed October 20, which would have made February 20, 2015, last Friday, the self-imposed deadline for the CRTC – coincidentally, the one-year anniversary of the original Public Notice.

When will the CRTC release its decision?

There are a number of issues being reviewed:

  • Should the CRTC regulate wholesale roaming rates?
  • If so, at what level?
  • Should the CRTC mandate resale to enable MVNO – mobile virtual network operators?

On this last point, the CRTC’s work should be pretty easy. Consistently, Industry Canada has rejected calls to mandate resale as a “condition of license” for mobile operators.

In the original AWS spectrum auction that gave rise to today’s competitive entrants such as Wind Mobile, Mobilicity, Videotron and Eastlink, Industry Canada created license conditions that stated: “Roaming as provided for in this condition does not include resale.”

Since that time, Industry Canada has had a number of reviews of its license conditions and associated network infrastructure sharing rules, each time remaining consistent. For example, in its March 2013 “CPC-2-0-17 — Conditions of Licence for Mandatory Roaming and Antenna Tower and Site Sharing and to Prohibit Exclusive Site Arrangements“, Industry Canada determined:

A carrier must therefore be offering service on its own network before its subscribers may benefit from roaming on another network, thus it does not include resale.

At the same time, Industry Canada’s perspective has been that “Nothing in the policy, however, is intended to limit the ability of carriers to conclude commercial agreements that are not mandated by this policy.”

Next Tuesday at noon, just one week from now, Canada’s wireless industry will be placing multi-billion dollar bids on spectrum, having built business plans under the December 18, 2014 Framework released by Industry Canada. At that time, Industry Canada reaffirmed the “conditions of license” with no mandated resale.

The CRTC’s wholesale wireless decision should have been released already (it was promised to be out by last Friday), allowing carriers to adjust their business models in advance of the single bid submission deadline.

A fundamental change in the regulatory framework, such as the CRTC mandating resale, could mark the return of Calvinball to Canada’s wireless sector.

There is already lots to talk about at The 2015 Canadian Telecom Summit, June 1-3 in Toronto. Early bird rates are available through Saturday February 28. Have you registered yet?

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