The federal government is opening up consultations on developing 5G wireless technologies and plans to hold three auctions for that spectrum over the next three years, it announced on Wednesday.
Minister of Innovation, Science, and Economic Development (ISED) Navdeep Bains spoke at the Candian Telecom Summit in Toronto to release Canada’s Spectrum Outlook 2018 to 2022. He said that the government’s goal is to create wireless services at a low cost to Canadians, but didn’t commit to setting spectrum aside for new entrants to the market in the 3500 MHz and millimeter wave auctions. Pending consultations, the government will also decide if there will be specific rules on how spectrum can be used or transferred after it’s acquired at auction.
“The guiding principle for us is more competition,” Bains said, and that’s why 43 per cent of the 600 MHz band is set aside for regional wireless operators and new entrants in the March 2019 auction. Whether that’s the case in the 3500 MHz band auction to take place in 2020, or the millimetre wave auction to take place in 2021 will be determined by consultations.
“At this moment I can’t confirm that will be the case for the next two auctions,” he said. “We want to make sure that people don’t sit on spectrum, that we deploy it. We want to see Canadians paying less, and one of the main aspects we have is spectrum. So if we deploy that in a strategic way, that promotes more entrants, more competition, and we believe that would drive down prices.”
Bains said the auction plan for 5G spectrum will place Canada in the top five of its international peers in speed of deployment, ahead of countries like Australia or Germany.
But 5G deployments are accelerating in other countries, says Namir Anani, president of the Information and Communications Technology Council, which is conducting research on 5G. He points to South Korea, where 5G spectrum will be awarded to bidders June 15. It’s expected $9.3 billion will be invested into 5G technology by telecom providers in the country.
Canada can’t wait too long to deploy 5G or else it might lose out on certain foreign investment opportunities, Anani says. The auction should also pursue the goal of creating more competition in the wireless space.
“We don’t have competitive pricing and affordability and that actually affects adoption in Canada,” he says. “So if we’re not introducing competition at this stage, 5G will become another technology that’s not adopted in this country.”
Low-cost Internet services announced
Bains also announced the Connecting Families initiative at the event. Aimed at helping low-income Canadians get online, it will provide hundreds of thousands of Canadians with affordable Internet access and will provide up to 50,000 computers to households through the existing Computers for Schools program.
The initiative will see $13.2 million invested over five years, beginning this year. Computers for Success Canada will provide a secure online portal where eligible families can access high-speedInternet service packages for $10 per month from participating service providers.
Those providers include:
- Bell Canada