Backgrounder

March 2013

Reviewing the Policy on Spectrum Licence Transfer Requests

The Government of Canada is taking steps to promote at least four wireless competitors in each region and is facilitating access to spectrum for these providers.

In addition to the Government's policies for spectrum auctions, the approach to spectrum licence transfer requests is critical to the effective management of the concentration of spectrum in Canada. Currently, incumbent wireless providers hold licences for 85 percent of spectrum in the country.

Every licence transfer requires the approval of Industry Canada. To ensure that Canadian consumers continue to have choice in providers, the Government will seek stakeholder input on the criteria and process used to review spectrum licence transfer requests. This process will also outline the approach to agreements related to licence transfers.

In this consultation, Industry Canada is seeking comments on the following:

  • the criteria and considerations related to spectrum licence transfer requests;
  • a proposal that companies entering into agreements (such as option agreements) relating to a potential future spectrum licence transfer will be required to notify Industry Canada, and that the Department will conduct a preliminary assessment of the licence transfer at that time;
  • whether there is a threshold in the form of concentration or a measure of MHz-pop that Industry Canada should apply in deciding whether to conduct a detailed review, or whether there is some other type of threshold, screen or cap that should be used to decide if a detailed review is required;
  • the treatment of deemed spectrum licence transfers as actual transfers, divisions or subordinate licensing arrangements;
  • the current review model and whether it should be confidential or such that Industry Canada would publicize a spectrum licence transfer request and provide an opportunity for third-party input;
  • any other suggested changes to the applicable conditions of licence related to spectrum licence transfers;
  • the proposed timelines for reviewing spectrum licence transfer requests; and
  • the proposed condition of licence concerning prospective transfers, including the criteria, considerations and timelines set out above.

The consultation will begin on March 7, 2013, with initial comments due on April 3, 2013. Interested parties will then have the opportunity to reply to comments from other stakeholders until May 3, 2013.

Decisions in response to this consultation will be made well in advance of the 700 MHz auction, which is scheduled to begin on November 19, 2013.

The interests of Canadians are best served by a competitive telecommunications market. Competition stimulates innovation and investment by the industry, which can lead to lower prices, better services and more choice for consumers and business users.

Industry Canada has reinforced its policy objectives with regards to spectrum and related policies through decisions including the Policy Framework for the Auction for Spectrum Licences for Advanced Wireless Services and Other Spectrum in the 2 GHz Range and the Policy and Technical Framework: Mobile Broadband Services (MBS)—700 MHz Band, Broadband Radio Service (BRS)—2500 MHz Band (SMSE-002-12). In the most recent of these, the policy objectives were as follows:

  • sustained competition in the wireless telecommunications services market so that consumers and businesses benefit from competitive pricing and choice in service offerings;
  • robust investment and innovation by wireless telecommunications carriers so that Canadians benefit from world-class networks and the latest technologies; and
  • availability of these benefits to Canadians across the country, including those in rural areas, in a timely fashion.

To read the full consultation paper on spectrum licence transfer requests, please see Consultation on Considerations Relating to Transfers, Divisions and Subordinate Licensing of Spectrum Licences.