DAVE Wireless to join new cellular carriers

Toronto millionaire entrepreneur John Bitove has quietly but firmly shown that he plans to be a cellular force in the country by announcing an executive team for what will be called DAVE Wireless.

Steering clear of the kind of splashy press conference Quebecor had last month when its Videotron cable division announced its upcoming new wireless service, Bitove put out a press release Thursday morning confirming what ITWorld Canada reported three weeks ago – that former Cogeco executive David Dobbin will be the new wireless company’s president.

Unlike the three other new wireless licence holders who have publicly announced plans to go live and trumpeted a CEO and perhaps one other executive, Bitove announced a four-person senior management team. It could be interpreted as a message that while slower off the mark, its intention is to get moving fast.

That’s what Dobbin suggested in a press release. “We are hitting the ground running with a high caliber team that will bring extensive experience, deep knowledge and outstanding work ethic to their new positions,” the statement said.

Because he’ll still be at Cogeco for a few days, Dobbin isn’t giving interviews. Nor is Bitove.

The announcement, while rich in personnel, still leaves many blanks, such as DAVE when it will launch, what cities it will launch first in or what audience it will target. Globalive Communications and BMV Holdings say they’re going after Canadians who don’t have cell phones, while cableco Videotron will emphasize the multi-media content it can offer subscribers. They hope to be selling subscriptions by this time next year.

Dobbin known for setting up public Wi-Fi networks at two public utilities he ran, first at Telecom Ottawa, and then at Toronto Hydro Telecom. That unit was sold in July to Cogeco Cable to become Cogego Data Systems.

Data and Audio Visual Enterprises is a consortium Bitove chairs that includes U.S. private equity investor Quadrangle Capital Partners. At one point investors included the venture investment company owned by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, but it has withdrawn.

DAVE paid $243,159,000 for 10 licences that include southern and eastern Ontario, Victoria, Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary. While that includes the populous Toronto area, there’s a hole in its coverage for subscribers who want to travel to Quebec or the Maritimes. Unless DAVE plans to emphasize local coverage, it will need to partner with Videotron, Bell Mobility, Telus Mobility or Rogers Communications to fill in those gaps.

DAVE Wireless’ executive unveiling follows three other new companies that won spectrum in last summer’s AWS licence auction and announced business plans: Globalive Wireless (a partnership between Toronto phone-around provider Globalive Communications and Egypt’s Orascom Telecom Holding.), Quebecor’s Videotron cable division, and Toronto’s BMV Holdings (a partnership of Canadian private equity companies and several U.S. venture capital firms).

They’ll go up against well-financed incumbents, Bell Canada, Telus Corp. and Rogers Communications, who will have had a year to prepare. But the newcomers will also be launching at time of great economic turmoil when Canadians’ pocketbooks may be empty.

Among other new licence holders, Atlantic Canada’s Bragg Communications, which owns the Eastlink cable company, has said nothing of its plans. Citing the uncertain economy, Calgary’s Shaw Communications has decided to wait a bit before launching. Nor have plans been released by Vancouver’s Novus Wireless, which won a 10Mhz licence covering British Columbia, or Blue Canada Wireless, which won a 10Mhz licence covering Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island.

The others in DAVE Wireless’s team are:

-Stewart Lyons, executive vice-president, the same post he held at XM Satellite Radio Canada, which is one of the ventures Bitove heads. Lyons will be responsible for corporate development, human resources and customer operations;

-Sharyn Gravelle, vice-president of network operations, who constructed and planned wireless networks for what was called at the time Rogers Cantel, Microcell (eventually becoming Rogers Communications) and Clearnet (which was bought by Telus). Her most recent job was managing the construction services division at Radian Communications;

-Ryan Lausman, vice-president of systems operations, who will be responsible for billing systems, operational support and provisioning. He had been head of IT at XM Satellite Radio Canada;

-Brandon Alexandroff, vice-president of finance.

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