Wind Mobile snaps up new spectrum licences

Toronto-based small wireless operator Wind Mobile snapped up new spectrum licences in the latest auction for airwaves in the AWS-3 (advanced wireless services) frequency, but wireless giant Rogers Communications failed to secure any licence.

The government was able to raise $2.11 billion through the auction where nine existing mobile carriers have plunked down $65 million each in entry deposit in order to bid for the wireless bands in 1755-1780 MHz and 2155-2180 MHz.

Here are the results of the auction:

  • Wind acquired spectrum in British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario – Wind now has 180 per cent more spectrum where they provide services;
  • Eastlink acquired spectrum in Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Northern Ontario – Eastlink now has 77 per  cent more spectrum;
  • Videotron acquired spectrum in Quebec and Eastern Ontario – it now has 65 per cent more spectrum as a result of this auction;
  • Telus acquired spectrum in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec – the company now has 16 per cent more spectrum;
  • Bell acquired spectrum in Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, Northern Quebec, Ontario, Nunavut, Northwest Territories and Yukon – Bell now has four per cent more spectrum.

The AWS-3 spectrum is used for mobile voice and data services, video, and messaging. Most manufacturers of smartphone mobile handsets provide versions of their phones that include radios that can communicate using the AWS spectrum. In Canada, almost all available LTE handsets support AWS as it is was the first frequency that LTE was offered over in the country.

Wind Mobile paid less than expected because Mobilicity pulled out at the last minute, according to, Dvai Ghose, managing director of Canaccord Genuity.

“Wind won the new entrant set-aside in British Columbia, Alberta and Southern Ontario at the combined reserve price of only $56.4 million or $0.10 per MHz PoP and increased its spectrum position by 180 per cent,” he said “We had forecast $272 million or $0.50 per MHz PoP, as we had expected competition from Mobilicity when we last published our estimates earlier this week.”

However, it is not clear who will finance Wind’s network upgrades and operating losses, he said. Canaccord estimates that the provider will need $1.5 billion in financing.

On Rogers’ ending up with no new spectrum licence, Ghose said “this comes as a surprise, given Rogers’ rich spectrum position post in the 700 MHz auction in 2014 and relatively high debt leverage, perhaps it is understandable.”

He also said that while Telus appears to have spent more than initially expected, it managed to “enrich its spectrum position in all key Canadian markets.”

MTS and SaskTel were frozen out of the auction and this should be a concern for MTS shareholders.

“Given Mobilicity’s future is increasingly unclear, regulators may eventually allow a sale to an incumbent,” said Ghose.

Rules for this particular auctioned were designed to level the playing field and provide smaller wireless carriers a better chances against large incumbents. For example, a large block of the AWS-3 spectrum (more than half or 30 megahertz out of 50 megahertz total) is set aside for operating new entrants – those that own less than 10 per cent of national market share and 20 per cent of regional market share. Wind will pay a total of $56.4-million for the licences. This is the minimum it could have paid, according to Federal Industry Minister James Moore. Canadian consumers win in AWS-3 auction.

Moore also confirmed that Mobilicity did not bid in the auction. Yesterday, it was reported that Mobilicity failed to secure enough funding to take part in the auction.

Videotron will spend $32-million.Eastlink will spend $10-million for spectrum in Atlantic Canada.

Telus will pay $1.5 billion to for airwaves in B.C. Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec.

BCE, will pay $500 million for airwaves in Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, Northern Quebec, Ontario, Nunavut, the Northwest Territories and Yukon.

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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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