August 2013 in review: Wireless war with Ottawa heats up

The war over wireless started the previous month, but in the heat of August it turned decidedly hot.

The fight was over the possible purchase of a startup Canadian carrier – either Wind Mobile or Mobilicity or both — by U.S.-based Verizon Communications. Verizon was cagy over its intentions, saying it was just looking.

That was enough for the country’s biggest carriers – BCE Inc.’s Bell Canada, Rogers Communications and Telus Corp. – to meet at the beginning of the month with rookie Industry Minister James Moore to convince him federal telecom policies were now giving a huge foreign carrier an advantage over Canadian companies.

Moore repeatedly – and heatedly – stood his ground.

“We will continue to stay the course by ensuring Canadians benefit from a competitive telecommunications industry,” he said.

The war of words escalated into a fight for public opinion.

The incumbents complained the Harper government’s policy of allowing foreign investors to buy all of a small carrier would give it an important advantage in the upcoming 700 MHz spectrum auction, where some frequencies were reserved for new entrants.

Why, they asked should a company the size of Verizon get any edge over a Canadian company? In the middle of the month Bell director Anthony Fell accused Moore in a letter of “going through the motions” of hearing the incumbents’ case.

Moore retorted that Canadians know “dishonest attempts to skew debates via misleading campaigns when they see them.”

Then in an interview with us, Moore – again – made it clear that if Verizon came north the government wouldn’t change its foreign investment rules, nor the auction rules.

Despite trying to play the nationalist card, the incumbents had little sympathy and the Tories just plowed ahead.

Also in August the once-hopeful future of BlackBerry turned dark as the board acknowledged it had to consider selling the company as sales continue to slump following the failure of new Z and Q-series smart phones to turn it around.

That led us to interview experts with two views: An industry analyst who said things weren’t so bad, and an investor who said the breakup of the company is inevitable.

A Halifax-based social media analytics startup called Leadshift told us it can help enterprise companies generate more accurate and actionable leads and referrals by sifting through and analyzing posts on Twitter.

Leadshift uses a proprietary natural language processing algorithm to sift through millions of social media posts and analyze conversations to identify posters that are likely to be in the market for a particular product or service. It works on tweets in English, French, Portugese, Chinese, Spanish, Italian and German. Compatibility with other languages is in the works

Financially-troubled Sears Canada, which has been shutting stores across the country, laid off 245 staff at hits Toronto head office and outsourced most of its IT application development work to IBM. Ultimately the work of those 138 IT workers will be done in the Philippines.

The national capital often gets dismissed by Canadians as a small, cold town. But Ottawa was ranked the top global city in terms of technology, talent and tolerance by Toronto think tank. The Martin Prosperity Institute also ranked Calgary ninth out of 61 municipalities.

In case you haven’t heard, Microsoft ends support for Windows XP in April, 2014. That means staying on the venerable desktop OS after that is risky. We ran several stories on this in August, one noting that some enterprise-sized organizations still hadn’t got the message, while another pointed out that hackers will find and go after PCs that still use it.

Finally, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer announced his intention to retire in 12 months. As industry observers noted, it comes at a sensitive time for the company. Microsoft is no longer a desktop operating system company. The last OS that really captured users’ enthusiasm was Windows XP. Windows 8, an attempt to unify operating systems across PCs, tablets and mobile devices, is still a work in progress, and the Surface tablet is invisible. Microsoft has missed the tablet boom, missed the smart phone boom, but is still an essential part of most enterprises through the Office suite. However, increasingly enterprises are turning to Web-based and SaaS solutions.

Ballmer is still around, and, later in the year took a leap in buying the handset division of Nokia in a bid to muscle in on the smart phone market.

With a new CEO 2014 could be the start of a year of upheaval at Microsoft, or a gentle pruning of dead wood.


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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Howard Solomon
Howard Solomon
Currently a freelance writer, I'm the former editor of and Computing Canada. An IT journalist since 1997, I've written for several of ITWC's sister publications including and Computer Dealer News. Before that I was a staff reporter at the Calgary Herald and the Brampton (Ont.) Daily Times. I can be reached at hsolomon [@]

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