Quebecor waiting for government regulation of roaming prices

Ottawa may have signaled support for smaller carriers with its announcement on Monday of a greater allocation of wireless spectrum for new entrants. However, Montreal-based media giant Quebecor Inc., is waiting for the government to revamp wholesale mobile roaming rates before making a serious play to become the country’s fourth national wireless player, according to analysts.

On Monday, Industry Canada chief James Moore announced that rules for the upcoming AWS-3 spectrum auction will see 30 megahertz of the total 50 megahertz of the spectrum will be set aside for new entrants. He also said that a simpler a shorter auction process will be followed to provide new entrants with a “visible path to high quality spectrum.”

The initiative was lauded by many industry observers, including Wind mobile CEP Anthony Lacavera as a move in the right direction towards encouraging greater competition in the local market dominated by the so called Big Three made up of Bell, Rogers and Telus.

However, spectrum access is not the key issue for Quebecor, according to Ian Grant of Montreal-based telecom consultancy firm The Seaboard Group. Rather, it is the roaming price that is holding Quebecor from moving to become the country’s fourth national wireless provider, he said in an interview with the daily Financial Post.

“…if we change the tiles, they’re in,” he said in. “If we don’t change the rules, they’re out.”

Quebecor serves about half a million wireless customers in Quebec and has bought spectrum licences in Alberta, B.C., Ontario and Quebec. But when its clients are out of range of Quebecor’s cell towers, their signals will have to go over the network of Quebecor’s rivals.

The company wants its customers to be able to use unlimited voice and text as well as significant Internet data as well. Quebecor wants to make sure it will not be charged an exorbitant price by its rivals when this occurs, said Pierre Dion, CEO of Quebecor, at the recent Canadian Telecom Summit in Toronto.

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) is currently looking the domestic wholesale roaming rights and is expected to set limits on what the Big Three can charge its rivals.

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Nestor E. Arellano
Nestor E. Arellano
Toronto-based journalist specializing in technology and business news. Blogs and tweets on the latest tech trends and gadgets.

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