Golden Spike Mobility
This company was actually thrown together specifically for the spectrum auction. Toronto-based Golden Spike Mobility is comprised of a few telecom vets, including former telecom analyst and consultant Mary Anne De Monte-Whelan and Steve Baker, late of 360 Networks and Sprint acquisition Integrated Network Services Inc.
Golden Spike is ponying up $480,000 for 12 eligibility points that it hopes, said president De Monte-Whelan, will shoehorn the company into an extremely “non-competitive landscape.” Where Canada is especially lacking, she said, is in data plans, which are currently quite expensive and often cost-prohibitive.
Said Whelan: “Canadian consumers and innovation are hampered. We have cellular penetration rates of only about 60 per cent, which is one of the lowest of any industrial nation.”
So the company plans to kick-start a next-generation, 3G, HSPA mobile broadband network to enable cheaper data plans. “We’re looking at a data-centric wireless network with voice attached. (The incumbents) focus more on voice, with data attached sometimes,” she said. (According to Whelan, she is leaning toward the GSM model right now.)
Customers will be able to choose between unlimited voice or data packages for $50. A five-year plan should bring this down to $35 to stay competitive.
Westman Media Co-operative
This Brandon, Manitoba-based co-operative is fronting almost $1 million for 24 eligibility points in the upcoming spectrum auction. It bills itself as a provider of cable, fibre optics, computer system and networks, high-speed Internet, advertising and broadcasting for both residential and business clients.
Westman Media is unique in that it is a co-operative. According to the company Web site, “the Company’s profit is equity that is shared by members based upon the amount of business they did with Westman, each year. All earnings (profits) belong to…the members, and each year, in accordance with Co-operatives Charter Bylaws, these earnings increase the members’ equity in the company.” The company then reinvests each owner’s equity into its cable systems, enabling Westman to add new television and other services, the Web site says.
The company president and CEO comes from a primarily financial background. According to the Web site, David Baxter is an accountant who “prior to joining Westman Communications Group in 1995, (was) the senior finance and corporate planning executive with a large transporter and supplier of natural gas.” He is, however, also the current director (and past chair) of the Canadian Cable Systems Alliance, and was once the director of the Canadian Cable Television Association.
Blue Canada Wireless
Although it’s officially based in Montreal, Blue Canada Wireless has a Bethesda, Md., mailing address, which is the same as that of MCG Corp. Those initials probably stand for Michael Charles Gelfand, an investor who is listed as Blue Canada Wireless’s president.
Blue Canada has put down nearly $5 million to bid on 120 points in the auction, but Gelfand refused to discuss the details with Network World Canada. “Once we have the spectrum we’ll be happy to talk about products and services,” Gelfand said.
Gelfand may have a good reason to be wary. In 2003, he was involved in a bitter dispute with Leap Wireless International Inc., a San Diego-based provider of flat-rate wireless services in which he was the largest shareholder. When Leap filed for bankruptcy that year, its disclosure statement included mention that Gelfand objected to the company’s reorganization plan.
“(Gelfand) collected some 21 million shares of Leap stock last year after it won a legal dispute,” an article in the San Diego Business Journal wrote at the time. “Now those shares are worth nothing — something Gelfand is sure to contest.”
Along with Gelfand, Blue Wireless’s ownership information lists Brian Gelfand in Bethesda and Allan Williams in Ottawa.
Rich Telecom Corp.
When you call Rich Telecom Corp, which has an address on Bay Street in Toronto, you are greeted with an automated attendant who promises to find someone. Chances are, that same voice will eventually inform you that no one is available to take your call. Not a great advertisement for a company that bills itself as a major player.
Although its name implies wealth, Rich Telecom Corp. only put up $240,000 for six points in the spectrum auction, and its president, Ahmad Mahmoud Abdalla, seems to be operating as a lone wolf. According to a document provided to the CRTC, “Mr. Abdalla is the 100% owners (sic) and the only director.”
There are only two other signs that Rich Telecom Corp. is serious about this market. One is a listing on TD Canada Trust’s electronic banking site that says customers can use EasyWeb, EasyLine and Green Machine ATMs to pay their Rich Telecom bills. The other is a brief, three-year-old announcement on the Web site of Toronto-based 360 MediaWorx, which said it was “participating in the design of the corporate web site for Toronto based Rich Telecom, the largest private provider of long distance services in Canada.” At this rate, the auction may be long over before the company’s portal goes live.