What do startups Wind Mobile, Mobilicity, Public Mobile and giant Telus Corp. have in common?
Besides selling wireless, all have pulled out of their industry lobby group, The Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association (CWTA).
Telus Corp. is the latest, having quietly withdrawn this week.
We don’t know exactly why. Wind, Mobilicity and Public Mobile jumped ship just over a year ago complaining the association favoured the positions of the big three telecom carriers – Telus, BCE Inc.s Bell Mobility and Rogers Communications.
But 13 months later Telus has found reason for unhappiness, a departure that a blow to association CEO and former New Brunswick premier Bernard Lord.
However no displeasure can be found in a company statement:
“Telus’ decision to withdraw from the CWTA reflects our desire to continue progressing our highly differentiated strategy and our unique customers-first approach. We are grateful for Bernard Lord’s excellent leadership. He effectively managed a wide diversity of opinions. Bernard has contributed significantly to the development of our industry and we look forward to our continued collaboration with him and his team on initiatives of joint interest.”
It is fair to say that the CWTA hadn’t been batting 1.000 lately. It has lost a number of lobbying efforts in Ottawa, including having a completely open structure for the just-completed 700 MHz auction (instead the Harper government imposed caps), keeping the government out of regulating domestic roaming fees (instead the government is about to bring in legislation regulating fees, and the federal regulator, the CRTC, is looking into the fees itself).
With the financial troubles of Mobilicity and deals struck by Rogers to give it first dibs on buying spectrum from Shaw Communications and Quebecor, the government decided it will review all future spectrum transfers.
Although it has okayed Telus buying Public Mobile, Ottawa has so far blocked any attempt for it to take over Mobilicity and its much more valuable spectrum. There was faint hope that when the five year ban on Mobilicity selling its spectrum to an incumbent carrier this month that roadblock would be lifted, but apparently not so.
Perhaps most importantly the association found itself painted as the bad guy in a fight with the government over the possible participation of Verizon Communications in the auction. That fight saw Industry Minister James Moore and Prime Minister Stephen Harper publicly on the side of competition, which appealed to consumers.
In a statement the CWTA said it is “understandably disappointed” with Telus’ move, and noted its contributions as a long-serving member of the association. “CWTA would be pleased to welcome Telus back as a full-time member in the future should its plans change.”
In an email telecom consultant Iain Grant of the SeaBoard Group puckishly said that “perhaps Public Mobile DNA is beginning to work its magic.”
“The CWTA didn’t have a great deal of credibility where it mattered most, in the minds of government policy makers,” he added, and was not seen as a dispassionate voice.
“Clearly this vote of non-confidence by Telus means that the organization needs to re-think its mandate and its role. Perhaps stick to recycling handsets and less of the policy influence bias.”