Provisional bidders for 700 MHz spectrum finalized

The final list of organizations provisionally qualified to bid in January’s 700 MHz spectrum auction has been posted, although there is still one more chance to pull out.

The list is the same as those who put down five per cent deposits last month, minus only one – a company backed by Birch Hill Equity Partners, which pulled out a week ago.

Now the remaining companies have until Oct. 29 to come up with the millions of dollars they’ll need to fund the other 95 per cent of their deposits. The deposits, based on a points system, essentially represent the opening bids for the spectrum they want in a somewhat convoluted auction.

The full deposit for Newfoundland’s paired spectrum will be $1.3  million, for Southern Ontario is $68.12 million, for British Columbia  $14.17 million.

Some participants may be bluffing and may pull out before the Oct. 29 deadline either because they don’t have or can’t raise the money to play in what is expected to be an expensive auction.

On the other hand, Ottawa has said there will be another auction next year (in a different band), so some may think they can sit it out until then.

Spectrum in the 700 MHz band is highly sought after because signals travel better, meaning fewer antennas need to be erected to cover a given area. In the 2008 auction more than $4 billion was spent, about twice as much as industry analysts expected.

Among the new names still on the list is Feenix Wireless Inc., headed by the chairman of financially-troubled startup carrier Mobilicity. If Feenix wins spectrum it would be separate from Mobilicity, which is trying to restructure. There is speculation that should Mobilicity manage to right itself financially then Feenix would be able to sell it the prized 700 MHz spectrum.

Also still on the list are the Catalyst Capital Group, reported to be interested in investing in Wind Mobile and/or Mobilicity, and B.C. wireless equipment maker Vecima Networks.

Others on the list include BCE Inc.’s Bell Mobility, Rogers Communications and Telus Corp., who collectively have just over 90 per cent of the wireless customers in the country; prairie incumbents Saskatchewan Telecommunications sand Manitoba Telecom Services; startups Globalive Wireless Management Corp. (parent of Wind Mobile) ; Bragg Communications (parent of Eastlink), Quebec’s Videotron; and Northern Ontario carrier TBayTel.

Also there is Vancouver’s Novus Wireless, which won PCS band spectrum in the 2008 auction but hasn’t gone into business yet, and a numbered Alberta company controlled by Corridor Communications.

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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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