The Federal Court has ruled in favour of Vidéotron last Tuesday in its fight against Telus which called into question the purchase of 3500 MHz spectrum licenses in Western Canada by the Quebec company.
Through its subsidiary Fibrenoire, Vidéotron won an auction last summer, allowing it to acquire 128 3500 MHz spectrum licenses in British Columbia, Alberta and Manitoba. These frequencies are essential to Vidéotron’s development of a 5G network in these regions.
Telus argued that Vidéotron should not have been authorized by the Ministry of Innovation, Science and Economic Development (ISED) to participate in the auction, since it does not currently offer internet services in Western Canada. Vidéotron had asserted that it was eligible based on the services provided by its subsidiary, Fibrenoire, and provided documentation showing that although Fibrenoire does not offer services to consumers, it offers various types of Internet and fibre optic services to businesses in several cities in these three provinces.
Telus had therefore first requested an interlocutory injunction to prevent the issuance of the licenses, which was denied last October. The company had also requested a judicial review of ISED’s decision to allow Vidéotron’s participation, which was rejected in the judgment last Tuesday.
Following the analysis of the case, Judge Alan S. Diner concluded in his ruling that “the process for assessing eligibility for reserved spectrum and the Minister’s decision were fair and reasonable”.
Vidéotron’s participation was made possible by a provision of the Canadian Telecommunications Act which allows companies that are not nationwide providers like Rogers, Bell and Telus to bid on segments of the frequency spectrum reserved for them. The purpose of this measure is to promote healthy competition in communications.
Québecor and Vidéotron, who make no secret of their desire to develop a mobile telephone network in Western Canada, accused Telus last fall of “relentlessly” trying to curb the implementation of government policies facilitating the arrival of a fourth player in the Canadian wireless arena.