Globalive gets cellular licences, ready to hire 1,000

The ownership of a new wireless entrant with a high amount of foreign investment has been given final approval by Ottawa, allowing it to officially issued the company its spectrum licences for operation.

Globalive Wireless has been hiring people and planning its network for several months after paying Industry Canada $442 million for the spectrum it won in last summer’s AWS auction, but it was only on March 13 that it actually got the licences.

“It certainly puts more certainty into the business,” company CEO Ken Campbell said in an interview Monday after announcing the government’s move, “and allows us to move forward with more conviction.” Having the licences will also help the company raise money for estimated $1.9 billion infrastructure it will have to build.

Cairo-based Orascom Telecom Holding, headed by billionaire Naguib Sawiris, has a 65 per cent indirect equity ownership in Globalive Wireless, a division of long-distance dial-around provider Globalive Communications. Orascom, which operates GSM networks directly or through subsidiaries in eight middle Eastern, Asian and African countries, will pump some $700 of the $1.9 billion million into its Canadian partner over the next four years to build a national network here. Under federal rules, Canadian telecom operators have to be controlled by Canadian organizations.

Campbell wouldn’t detail Globalive Wireless’ financial structure has other than to say “we’ve adhered to all the ownership guidelines as stipulated by Industry Canada … which ensures that ownership and control is with Canadians.” Globalive Communications head Anthony Lacavera said last fall that Orascom had a 20 per cent voiting share in Globalive Wireless.

Globalive Wireless won licences in almost every part of the country except the Montreal region, hopes to start operating in five cities here by the end of the year.

Campbell also said Monday that he aims to hire 1,000 people in the next 12 months. Some will work out of Globalive Communications new contact centre in Windsor, Ont., handling customer calls for both the landline and wireless business. But the company will be big enough that it can’t share offices with its parent in downtown Toronto and so has found its own digs nearby.

Although it hasn’t chosen hardware and software suppliers, the wireless unit is looking for RF (radio frequency) specialists, as well as people with experience in phone company billing, operational software support systems and network management. Campbell expects he’ll hire “in the few hundred range” with those backgrounds.

Suppliers will be chosen “in the next three to four months,” he said.

Initially at least, Globalive Wireless will sell “cost-effective, simple” pre-paid plans to consumers, which will put them against the low-cost divisions of incumbents Bell Canada (Solo), Rogers Communications (Fido) and Telus (Koodo), as well as fellow newcomer Public Mobile.

As for the other new licence holders who have announced plans, Quebecor’s Videotron will go for a different market and emphasize the multimedia capabilities it can offer handset users through its cable and print divisions. But Data and Audio Visual EnterprisesDAVE Wireless has merely put out a press release that it will be in business, leaving its strategy a mystery.

The one serious hole in Globalive Wireless’ network will be Montreal. “It’s important we have a roaming agreement” with one of the providers in that city, Campbell said. Meanwhile to build its network his company is struggling to negotiate antenna site sharing agreements with Bell, Rogers and Telus.

“They’re progressing at a pace you might have expected,” Campbell said of trying to get a break from competitors, although Industry Canada has ordered the incumbents to make room. “We expect to have to go for arbitration for many of our sites,” Campbell said.

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