Canadian carriers pay big for mid-band 5G spectrum licenses

Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada’s 3,500 MHz 5G spectrum auction concluded with record numbers on July 29. Fifteen Canadian mobile carriers collectively paid CA$8.91 billion for 1,495 licenses, nearly three times the amount raised at the 600 MHz spectrum auction in 2019.

The Big Three carriers – Bell, Rogers and Telus – won the majority of the licenses. Rogers obtained 325 licenses for CA$3.3 billion, Bell won 271 licenses for around CA$2.1 billion, and Telus won 142 for CA$1.9 billion. Together, the Big Three carriers accounted for 82 per cent of the total amount raised.

Due to the set-aside licenses, regional carriers such as the Crown-owned SaskTel and rural Quebec-based Sogetel also managed to purchase licenses of their own. SaskTel paid CA$145 million for 68 licenses while Sogetel paid CA$14.5 million for 18.

The mid-band 5G spectrum in the 3,500 MHz range can carry vastly more data than 4G LTE or even the 600 MHz 5G spectrum. The higher bandwidth and lower latency can drive the next generation of remote use cases in addition to richer media.


The bid for mid-band: 3,500 MHz spectrum auction officially begins

As per ISED’s deployment guideline, winners must deploy services over their newly acquired spectrum to meet five, seven, ten and 20-year targets. The higher the area’s population density, the faster and more widely the services must be deployed. In areas with large population centres such as Toronto and Vancouver, licensees will need to provide service to at least 30 per cent of the population within five years, 50 per cent within 10 years, and 70 per cent within 20 years.

Operators of 4G networks in urban areas must adhere to an expedited 5G schedule. They must deliver service to at least 90 per cent of that population within five years, and 97 per cent within seven years, and 95 per cent of the surrounding rural area within 10 years. In non-urban areas, the target is 90 per cent within seven years and 97 per cent within 10 years.

Ontario-based TekSavvy had originally planned to participate but pulled out on short notice after the CRTC reversed its 2019 wholesale internet pricing decision. Shaw’s Freedom Mobile also did not participate due to Shaw’s pending merger with Rogers.

Full auction results are published on the Government of Canada’s website.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Tom Li
Tom Li
Telecommunication and consumer hardware are Tom's main beats at IT World Canada. He loves to talk about Canada's network infrastructure, semiconductor products, and of course, anything hot and new in the consumer technology space. You'll also occasionally see his name appended to articles on cloud, security, and SaaS-related news. If you're ever up for a lengthy discussion about the nuances of each of the above sectors or have an upcoming product that people will love, feel free to drop him a line at [email protected].

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