updated 02:00 pm EDT, Tue May 27, 2008
Canada 2GHz Auction Starts
The Canadian government today officially began its wireless auction for the 2GHz band, setting the groundwork for a potentially significant change in the country's cellular business. Similar to the recently completed 700MHz auction held by the FCC in the US, the auction will let a total of 27 companies bid on licenses to operate wireless networks in different regions. The Canadian auction differs by having the government dictate bidding increments for early stages and asking companies to match each bid.
Most believe that the auction is likely to introduce at least a fourth major cellular carrier to Canada beyond Bell, Rogers, and Telus. A list of known bidders includes both these incumbents as well as a number of cable providers that hope to start their own services across some or all of the country, including Manitoba's MTS, Shaw, and Videotron operator Quebecor.
Critics have argued that the near-absolute control of the cellular market by the three existing carriers has contributed to excessive charges for call time and data plans. Rogers in particular is currently the only GSM provider in the country and often has exclusive control over access to certain phones, including Apple's iPhone later this year.
Industry Canada, which is managing the auction, hasn't set a timetable for the end of the auction but says that any companies placing higher bids in the auction must have paid 80 percent of their bids within a month of winning. Actual services haven't been given a timetable, though fourth-generation (4G) cellular data access isn't expected to be ready for service in most countries until late 2009 at the earliest.