Smoke signals

By Howard Solomon, Assistant Editor, Network World Canada
There were plenty of signals being sent this week at the BMO Nesbit Burns telecom conference for investors, and they weren’t all in smoke. Execs from new wireless entrants Quebecor and Globalive Wireless made pitches, while the CFO of incubant Telus moaned about the “dysfunctional result” of rules that pushed licenced values up. We can’t tell you what Globalive wireless head Anthony Lacavera said because his comments weren’t Webcast (BMO apparently didn’t want to waste the bandwidth on a private company). But we can try to parse the smoke signals from Quebecor prexy Pierre Karl Peladeau and Telus’ Robert McFarlane.

Peledau, who acknowledged that before the auction stated was aiming for licences across the country, instead had to settle for locking up spectrum across all of Quebec and over Toronto.
“Mobility is the future of our company,” he declared, adding that, through its Sun newspaper chain, Videotron cable business and pay per view channels, Quebecor could be a big (and valuable) content provider. That was a hint to potential partners, especially those who might be thinking of bypassing it in favour of a certain numbered company I wrote about earlier this week that has – if Industry Canada permits – 10Mhz of southern Quebec spectrum.
Does that mean the wireless business, which will come under the Videotron brand, will be media-rich? “My feeling is that new entrants do not have a strong business model other than going for the low end – the MetroPCS model,” he said. (MetroPCS is a U.S. carrier with no contract unlimited talk plans with rates that rise based on extra features, such as voicemail or Web access).
“I think we have the capacity of doing both,” Peledau added tantelizingly, “but I don’t think it’s clever to mention to our competitors what will be our strategy.” There was great laughter at that.

He also said he wants to launch service as soon as possible.
The other signals came from Telus CFO Rob McFarlane, who confirmed the telco is chatting with Bell about possibly adding a GSM network along side its CDMA network. Telus and Bell have said they’re eventually going to LTE for high speed wireless, it’s just a matter of how. McFarlane said adding EVDO Rev B to the CDMA network is one route, but he said that standard isn’t solidified yet. Similarly adding a GSM/High Speed Packet Access (HSPA) network is tempting, but he noted there aren’t a lot of HSPA phones on the market (Hmmmm. That isn’t stopping Rogers … ). Anyway, to cover all possibilities Telus is talking to Rogers (presumably about roaming) and Bell (presumably about tower sharing), and is getting bids from equipment makers. “I would expect we’ll arrive at a decision before the end of this year,” he said.
Both Pleladeau and McFarlane, to mix a metaphore, are keeping their powder dry. Watch for the smoke.

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