Wind loses seamless roaming case

Wind Mobile has lost a fight to have the telecommunications regulator order Rogers Communications Inc. to enable seamless roaming for subscribers when they move across coverage areas.
On Friday the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) found that Wind presented insufficient evidence that Rogers has given itself preferential treatment in dropping live calls from competitors when they roam onto the Rogers wireless network. Wind subscribers can still roam on a Rogers network, but to resume the call they have to dial back.

In addition, the commission noted, the roaming agreement between Rogers and Wind doesn’t require seamless roaming of live calls.

Since there is insufficient evidence the commission said it wasn’t necessary to decide if Rogers gives its subscribers preferential treatment.
In addition, the commission said it would be inappropriate to order incumbent carriers to institute seamless roaming.
Wind’s appeal to the commission was supported by fellow startup Mobilicity.
Wind’s main argument was that Rogers advertises its low-cost Chatr brand as offering “fewer dropped calls than new wireless carriers” based in part on “seamless call transition when moving out of zone.”
But Rogers replied that as a company brand, Chatr subscribers don’t roam onto the Rogers network – they’re on it all the time.

In a written rebuttal to the Wind complaint, Rogers also argued that seamless roaming, also called a soft handoff, is uncommon among carriers around the world. During a press conference Thursday at the Canadian Telecom Summit, Bell Canada CEO George Cope said the same thing. “No one in the world has soft handoff for roaming. Nobody.”

In an interview Friday, Wind chairman Anthony Lacavera said his company will take its case to Industry Minister Christian Paradis and eventually go back to the CRTC.
“We disagree with the decision and we will continue to fight incumbent anti-competitive practices through every avenue available to us.”
However, in an interview Ken Engelhart, Rogers’ senior vice-president of regulatory affairs, noted that several years ago Industry Canada  rejected the opportunity to mandate carriers to offer seamless roaming when it was setting the licencing obligations for incumbents in 2008 in their dealings with new carriers like Wind and Mobilicity. That means it’s a negotiable issue with the competitors. Meanwhile, Industry Canada is looking at the issue again as a prelude to the next spectrum auction.
“We have said this is an Industry Canada issue all along,” Englehart added. “They felt that seamless handoff was not appropriate [to mandate]. And although the CRTC said it has jurisdiction, I think the fact that Industry Canada said seamless was not required was a main reason why it found there was not undue preference.”
No government in the world mandates seamless roaming, he added. While Wind may believe it is common, in its written submission to the commission the startup didn’t name one, Engelhart said. “If there was such a thing as seamless handoff for Wind in Italy, you can bet your boots they would have mentioned that.” Wind Italy is owned by the Canadian company’s Austrian-based partner, VimpelCom.

“I am surprised to hear that Mr. Cope is of the view that no one in the world has seamless handoff with roaming,” Lacavera replied in an email.

He cited a few. “For example, in the U.S., T-Mobile has seamless handover with Commnet Wireless and Iowa Wireless. And T-Mobile had seamless handoff with Microcell before Microcell was acquired by Rogers.”

Other countries where seamless roaming occurs, he said, include the UK (between Orange and T-Mobile), Spain (Orange with Telefonica Spain and Vodafone Spain), Ireland (3 Ireland with Vodafone), India (BSNL, IDEA, TATADocomo, Airtel, and Vodafone) and Croatia (between Tele2 and T-Mobile).”

Last October, Wind Mobile’s parent, Globalive Wireless Management Corp., demanded the CRTC order Rogers to give Wind subscribers the same seamless roaming rights customers of Rogers’ new Chatr service have. Rogers has conferred on itself an “undue preference” under the Telecommunications Act, Globalive alleged. Mobilicity, which also has a roaming deal with Rogers, also complained about the refusal to grant seamless roaming.

Inter-carrier roaming is vital for the startups, who, with less than two years of operation have small networks. Without it their subscribers are limited to their coverage area, while incumbents’ subscribers can roam across the country.

To protect the young companies, Industry Canada requires incumbents to negotiate deals when requested with a new entrant allowing subscribers to roam on the broader networks.

The startups have indeed negotiated roaming rights – in Wind’s case, with Rogers. But Globalive complains that what Wind subscribers don’t get is immediate, seamless handoffs to another network when they leave Wind’s coverage when they’re in the middle of a call. Instead, Rogers’ network drops the calls. Wind subscribers have to re-dial to get service. The industy  sometimes call this a hard hand-off.

Globalive told the commission that “not being to offer seamless handoffs … has contributed significantly to a decrease in new Wind activations and harm to the positioning of Wind’s brand on the key metric of network reliability.” Meanwhile Rogers is advertising that Chatr offered “fewer dropped calls than new wireless carriers.”

The result, Globalive says, is that Rogers has created the impression that the networks of startups is less reliable than is true.

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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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