updated 05:15 pm EDT, Fri March 14, 2008
Canada Cell Biz Expands
Canada's wireless industry was set to expand on Friday when Quebecor said it would participate in an upcoming wireless auction, hoping to claim newly available frequencies for future cellular business. The company is best known for its Videotron cable and Internet services in its namesake Quebec but has placed a $317 million deposit to put itself into the auction citing the rare opportunity to expand outside of its native province with a new service.
"Exceptionally favorable conditions for new entrants, which may never occur again, persuaded us it is in the interest of our shareholders that we try to extend our deployment across Canada," said company chief Pierre Karl Peladeau.
A predominantly Manitoba-based cable and phone provider, MTS, said earlier in the week that it would also join the auction with the intent of crafting a cellular service. Shaw, a potential third candidate and cable provider known for its cable access in the West, is also poised to apply but may not start up a wireless service of its own.
The auction will start on May 27th and may create a significant shift in the balance for Canadian cellular access. The country is often considered a close parallel in cellular business to the US but is dominated by the three major carriers Bell Canada, Rogers, and Telus, only one of which uses the GSM format used by AT&T, T-Mobile, and most international carriers. The narrower selection has often been cited as a reason for excessive data charges that have only lately been reduced and have been considered an obstacle to the introduction of the iPhone, which depends heavily on data access.
T-Mobile is also rumored to be either seeking its own entry into the auction or otherwise starting up a service of its own in Canada, expanding the pool of new candidates to six.