But the Jan. 18 letter from the public interest groups to Paradis says the “brazen announcement in our view should immediately be countered by your ministry.”
“We call upon you to assure Canadian wireless consumers that this Government is committed to advancing real competition that lowers prices and increases consumers' choices of wireless providers,” it says in part.
“Your government took bold steps to initiate market entry with set-asides in the AWS auction. The result was credible new entrant wireless providers who already are offering positive plans and market discipline leading to lower wireless prices for consumers.
“Canadians expect this Government to require all wireless providers to abide by the clear rules when auctioning off the public resource of spectrum. Canadian wireless consumers look to this Government to continue its extensive efforts to promote real competition in wireless services. We call for your immediate response to preserve this consumer-friendly policy.”
But Engelhart strongly disagrees that having the option to buy the Shaw spectrum -- even if the deal forbids Shaw from selling it to someone else between now and the fall of 2014 -- violates the the five-year sale ban.
"There is nothing in the AWS condition of licence (of incumbent carriers) to prohibit an option," he said. "The set aside is for five years and we are not taking ownership of that spectrum within the five year period."
The entire deal still has to be approved by Industry Canada and the Competition Bureau.
Asked how Rogers will persaude the authorities, Engelhart said it will explain that Rogers is in a "pitched battle" with Bell Mobility and Telus Corp. to get customers for their latest generation LTE networks. Bell and Telus share a network, which means they have more combined AWS spectrum that Rogers, he said. But the Shaw spectrum isn't being used: Rogers wants to use it.
"This enables me to compete," Engelhart said, which should be a "compelling case" to the government.
"The new entrants don't appear to be buying spectrum," he said. "Their problem seems to be they don't have enough customers for the spectrum they've got. The (Shaw) spectrum wasn't being used. We can put it to good use in our LTE network.
"I think the public interest is clearly in favour of that spectrum being put to use."
Shaw isn't the only new entrant with spectrum up for sale. Videotron's haul in the 2008 auction included spectrum covering Toronto, where it doesn't have cable operations.
Engelhart wouldn't comment on whether Rogers [TSX: RCI.A
] has approached Videotron owner Quebecor Inc. about a deal.