The consumer interest in spectrum auctions


Michael Janigan


Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC)




This report contains a review of the process of allocating wireless radio spectrum in Canada from the administrative comparative (“beauty contest “) model to the development and refinement of spectrum auctions. It provides the rationale for the migration to spectrum auctions and outlines some of the international experience as well as the efforts to use the format of auctions to address competitive, and public interest concerns associated with the use of spectrum. Finally, it touches upon the most recent consultation processes implemented by Industry Canada to provide for the auction of 700 MHz spectrum in 2013 and 2500 MHz spectrum in 2014.

In relation to the complaints concerning special attempts to encourage competition, it is the view of the author of this report that while the auction bidding process may select that player who values the spectrum the most, there is no assurance that the use or non-use of that spectrum may further the existence of a competitive wireless mobile interest or the public interest, apart from enriching the Consolidated Revenue Fund. Set-asides and caps are necessary to nurture that market as well as provision where possible for public uses from safety and emergency use to “commons” use that encourages research and innovation. The report concludes that the initial pessimism about spectrum auctions from public interest advocates may be dissipated by continued efforts to address market flaws and public opportunities through the auction process.

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OCA Funded Research
This research received funding support through the Office of Consumer Affairs' Contributions Program.

Contact information

Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC)
285 McLeod Street, Suite 200
Ottawa, ON   K2P 1A1
(613) 562-4002
(613) 562-0007

Source: Consumer Policy Research Database

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