Backgrounder

March 2013

Expanded and Extended Frameworks for Mandatory Roaming and Antenna Tower and Site Sharing

In 2008, as part of the government's policies to encourage new competition in the wireless sector, Industry Canada required all carriers to offer roaming on their networks. These roaming policies included some provisions that were only available to new entrant service carriers for five years and were to begin expiring in 2013. In order to support competition and continued access to roaming for consumers, Industry Canada is taking the following measures to improve these roaming policies:

  • extending roaming provisions indefinitely and expanding them to all carriers; and
  • reducing the timelines to trigger arbitration and the arbitration timelines applicable to carriers negotiating roaming agreements.

Pursuant to Industry Canada's policy, roaming rates are determined through negotiations between licensees, but conditions of licence provide for mandatory arbitration to set fair market rates if the parties cannot agree. The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission has the authority under the Telecommunications Act to examine matters regarding roaming and tower-sharing rates and terms.

In 2008, Industry Canada also mandated antenna tower and site sharing. This policy was introduced to reduce the proliferation of antenna towers and to facilitate the entry of new competition into the wireless market. In order to further advance these objectives, Industry Canada is making changes to improve the current tower-sharing policies, including:

  • strengthening accountability of carriers to increase the sharing of towers and reduce negotiation timelines;
  • improving monitoring of the effectiveness of the policy by requiring regular detailed reporting to Industry Canada on the status of negotiations and towers shared; and
  • reducing the timelines to trigger and complete arbitration.

Given the increased number of new agreements involving new entrants, Industry Canada notes that tower sharing is improving. However, if such tower-sharing improvements do not continue, Industry Canada will take further action.

For more on these improvements to mandated roaming and antenna tower sharing, please see the following documents: