Globalive Wireless to use Wind brand in Canada

Globalive Wireless Management Corp. is changing its name to Wind Mobile, the brand it will use to offer cellular service in five Canadian cities.

Wind Mobile plans to launch wireless service in Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Toronto and Ottawa later this year.

“This is meant to be our initial launch brand,” said Anthony Lacavera, Globalive’s chairman and CEO. “It’s a well established brand in Italy and Greece.”

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The company plans to start service in Toronto and Ottawa first, Lacavera said.

Wind Telecomunicazioni SpA operates wireless and wireline services in both Italy and Greece. Wind Mobile will be owned by Globalive Holdings, which is partly owned by Lacavera.

The other owner of Globalive Holdings is Egypt-based Oracscom Telecom Holding SAE. Orascom, which is owned by Naguib Sawiris, holds 20 per cent of Globalive’s voting shares. Sawiris also controls Weather Investments, which owns 99.996 per cent of Wind Telecomunicazioni SpA.

The Telecommunications Act prohibits foreigners from holding a controlling interest in Canadian carriers.

Telus Corp. asked the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission to review Globalive’s ownership on the grounds that Orascom holds 65 per cent of the total equity.

Hearings are scheduled Sept. 23.

The fact that Globalive is using the Wind brand “gives Telus a little more ammunition” in its submission to the CRTC, said Mark Tauschek, lead analyst with Info-Tech Research Group in London, Ont.

But Tauschek added it should not be a surprise that Orascom would want its Wind brand used in Canada, given that Orascom helped fund the company.

“You’d expect them to leverage what they had,” he said. “That’s why they invested in Globalive.”

Last summer Globalive paid $442 million for wireless spectrum covering most of the country.

Globalive will be using the Wind brand in a licensing agreement with Wind Telecomunicazioni.

The companies are not disclosing the licensing fee, but the advantage of the agreement goes beyond brand recognition, Lacavera said.

It will be able to take advantage of Wind’s volume discounts on handsets, which means Wind Mobile will be able to reduce its costs, Lacavera said. He added features such as activation, roaming, security and permissions will “already be in place,” meaning it will not take as long to launch services as it would if it had no partner.

Tauschek said Wind Mobile would still have to test its handsets in Canada, but he agreed it would give the firm buying power with handset manufacturers and the company could probably use some of the same back-end systems, such as operational support systems.

“I would assume they would, in some way, shape or form, either emulate or use wind’s billing system,” he said. “Presumably they would to some degree emulate Wind’s network in Italy and Greece.”

Globalive is one of the companies that bought wireless spectrum last year.

Other new wireless entrants include Videotron, DAVE Wireless and Public Mobile.

Public Mobile says it plans to offer $40-per-month voice and text plans in Montreal and Toronto, and only paid $52 million for its spectrum.

Videotron and DAVE Wireless plan to use High Speed Packet Access in their networks. Rogers has already said it plans to increase its speed in Toronto to 21 Mbps, using the HSPA Plus standard. DAVE Wireless earlier this month said its initial service will be HSPA but its network will be “HSPA-Plus-enabled.”

“At the end of the day Canadians will be big winners,” Lacavera said of the new wireless entrants. “You are already seeing incumbents drop pricing. You can’t live a day around Toronto without seeing it.”

Globalive said Monday it is looking for 300 customer service employees for Wind Mobile immediately, and plans to hire an additional 2000 over the next year.

“They are saying ‘We really want to listen to our customers,’ so that will be interesting to see,” Taushek said. “That is one area where I think the carriers in Canada are woefully lacking.”