Canada's Wireless Policy: More choice. Lower prices. Better service.
No endorsement of any products or services is expressed or implied.
When it comes to wireless services, Canadians have been clear: They want more choice.
As of summer 2015, the amount of spectrum available to provide mobile services to consumers has grown by almost 60 percent since early 2014. This is the largest amount of spectrum ever released in such a short time in Canada, allowing Canadians and their families to benefit from the latest technologies and world-class services. From January 2014 to May 2015, the Government held three major spectrum auctions to help put more of this valuable public resource into the hands of wireless companies.
The auction of 2500 MHz spectrum, which ended in May 2015, gave wireless companies the additional spectrum they need to continue to improve service as consumer demand for wireless offerings rises. It provided advantages for Canadians living in rural areas, who will benefit from better wireless broadband service offerings as a result of the auction.
In March 2015, the Government's auction of valuable Advanced Wireless Services-3 (AWS-3) spectrum was held. It included provisions to increase the amount of spectrum held by new competitors. These new competitors emerged as the winning bidders on most of the AWS-3 spectrum in the auction, putting more of this valuable public resource in the hands of those companies that need it to compete.
The two auctions in 2015 built on the momentum from the 700 MHz auction, which ended in February 2014. These high-quality airwaves were made available to carriers to provide Canadians with high-speed wireless services on the latest technologies. Consumers were the big winners in that auction. A fourth wireless service provider obtained spectrum in every region of the country, delivering on the Government's commitment to encourage more competition in Canada's wireless industry.
Canadian consumers have been clear that they expect lower prices from telecommunications providers. As part of the 2008 wireless auction, the Government set aside a portion of the airwaves for new competitors to give Canadians more choice. The Government's actions on spectrum and other telecommunications issues have had a positive effect: there is more competition today, and wireless prices have fallen on average 22 percent.
Wall Communications Report, 2014
Since 2008, additional spectrum auctions have furthered progress on lowering wireless prices for Canadians by providing more spectrum for all players, but particularly for new competitors.
The 2500 MHz auction featured spectrum caps to further encourage competition, making it easier for new wireless companies to obtain the spectrum they need to grow their networks.
The AWS-3 auction, meanwhile, included a large set-aside of spectrum for new entrants, strict controls on transfers of this spectrum and a streamlined auction process. AWS-3 spectrum will deliver fast, reliable service on the latest smartphones, tablets and mobile devices.
And thanks to the 700 MHz spectrum auction, wireless companies now have new opportunities to further develop their services and provide Canadians with more choice.
Those auctions were all successful, because they were designed to put the interests of Canadian consumers first.
The Government has also taken other measures to lower prices. In 2014, it passed legislation to cap wholesale roaming rates. On , the CRTC announced that it will regulate wholesale roaming rates that Canada's three largest national providers can charge other wireless carriers. These rates take precedence over the legislated rates. With domestic roaming rates capped, Canadian consumers will benefit from more competition in the wireless market.
The Government has also legislated to end pay-to-pay billing practices, the fee for receiving a bill in the mail, in the telecommunications sector. Any company that breaks the rules faces fines of up to $15 million. Ending this unfair practice will prevent Canadian consumers from paying extra to receive paper bills.
These are just some of the ways our policies support Canadian consumers and put more money back in the pockets of hard-working Canadian families.
As outlined in Digital Canada 150, the Government has an ambitious plan for making Canada a leading digital nation by 2017. Key to a successful digital economy is modern network infrastructure, which increasingly means wireless connectivity. To deliver on this, the Government's announcement to release more high-quality spectrum will further enable wireless companies to improve their services.
This builds on the Government's commitment of $305 million to extend and enhance broadband Internet service for Canadians in rural and northern communities.
- In 2006, 98 percent of mobile spectrum was concentrated in the hands of Canada's largest wireless companies. As of summer 2015, new competitors now hold approximately 25 percent of total mobile wireless spectrum. This is the largest amount of spectrum ever released in such a short time in Canada, allowing Canadians and their families to benefit from the latest technologies and world-class services.
The results of the 700 MHz spectrum auction will allow successful bidders to offer high-speed wireless services on the latest technologies. AWS-3 spectrum is ideal for delivering fast, reliable service on the latest smartphones, tablets and mobile devices, and the 2500 MHz spectrum will enable enhanced wireless Internet services for Canadians living in rural areas, while also providing mobile spectrum for use in more densely populated parts of the country.
A path for mobile services in the 3500 MHz spectrum band will provide more mobile capacity where demand is high while maintaining existing fixed-wireless Internet services. The decision to enable use of the AWS-4 spectrum band will further support competition in mobile wireless services for Canadians, particularly in rural and remote areas.
In 2015 we also sought comments on releasing a new band of the TV spectrum at 600 MHz, which carries signals well over long distances, for mobile use while allowing Canadian over-the-air broadcasters to remain on the air. A decision on that process will be announced at a later date.
The Government has also introduced new enforcement powers, including administrative monetary penalties, to ensure companies are playing by the rules and to better protect Canadian consumers.
Our actions and policies will ensure that the wireless industry has the spectrum it needs to deliver next-generation services that Canadians demand.
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Key dates—What you need to know about the AWS-3 and 2500 MHz spectrum auction
12:00 noon (ET) on January 30, 2015
Deadline for receipt of applications to participate in the 2500 MHz and/or AWS-3 auctions and 100 percent of the pre-auction financial deposits.
February 5, 2015
Publication of the list of applicants for each of the auctions, with information on beneficial ownership, affiliated entities and associated entities.
- This information will be posted on the Industry Canada website: www.ic.gc.ca/spectrum.
February 13, 2015
Publication of final list of qualified bidders for each of the auctions.
- This information is posted on the Industry Canada website: www.ic.gc.ca/spectrum.
Beginning February 26, 2015
Auction preparation for qualified bidders.
- Industry Canada will hold an information session for qualified bidders.
March 3, 2015
Deadline for sealed bids for the AWS-3 auction.
March 6, 2015
Announcement of Provisional Results for AWS-3 Auction.
- Provisional winnings bids are now published on the Industry Canada website: www.ic.gc.ca/spectrum.
April 14, 2015
2500 MHz auction starts—opening of bidding.
- Web-based bidding takes place via secure specialized software at a location of each bidder's choosing.
—Announcement of Results for 2500 MHz auction
- Provisional winning bids now available on the Industry Canada website: www.ic.gc.ca/spectrum.
We heard you, Canada
This is an important step in the right direction for those, like WIND, who believe Canadians deserve true choice and competition in wireless. Today's announcement shows that Prime Minister Harper's Government is serious about competition and serious about consumers.
Chief Regulatory Officer, Wind MobileMobile Syrup, December 18, 2013
What Canadians have to fear from more competition in their pricey phone market is unclear.
—The Economist, September 7, 2013
[Minister] Moore, his predecessors and Prime Minister Stephen Harper have been pretty consistent in their position – they believe they have the right rules in place to encourage more wireless competition.
—Peter Nowak, journalist, blogger
Blog, September 3, 2013
I commend the government's unflinching commitment to consumers by holding the course on the wireless competition policy.
—Anthony Lacavera, CEO, Wind Mobile
Globe and Mail, September 3, 2013
The new Minister of Industry, James Moore, is strongly resisting the rent-seeking arguments of the Big Three and promoting the interests of Canadian consumers by encouraging greater competition in the marketplace. Fortunately for us, he understands the difference between business interests and the national interest.
—Christopher Ragan, Associate Professor, McGill University
Globe and Mail, August 27, 2013
Canadian consumers don't buy the industry spin—they want lower wireless prices and they know that means stopping the big three from shutting out competition.
The public already appears to believe wireless prices are too high and supports the government's efforts to encourage more competition in the market.
—Abacus Data CEO David Coletto, in The Wire Report (subscription required)
...High cell phone prices…are acting as a dead weight on job creation and economic opportunity across the country.
Right now, we pay some of the highest prices in the industrialized world for some really horrible service, and that one way or the other needs to change.
With Canadian wireless prices still among the highest in the G7, Canadian consumers hope they can trust the government and CRTC to take action.
Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-Commerce Law, University of Ottawa
Toronto Star, October 3, 2014
Unless decision-makers at the Competition Bureau, the CRTC, or elected representatives like Industry Minister James Moore take bold action to open our [wireless] networks and free them from Big Telecom's control, Canadians will continue to face some of the highest prices in the industrialized world.
Blog, October 3, 2014
Wireless and Internet costs are soaring, which is clear evidence the market is not working by itself. There has never been a greater need for regulatory intervention in telecommunications, and you can't have that without a regulator.
Blog, September 29, 2014
Tools you can useKnow
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Government action timeline
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May 12, 2015
Auction results a win for rural Canadians
April 14, 2015
Canada's Latest Wireless Spectrum Auction Set to Begin
March 6, 2015
AWS-3 Wireless Auction a Win for Consumers
November 4, 2014
Statement by Industry Minister James Moore on WIND Mobile
February 19, 2014
More Choice for Canadian Wireless Consumers
February 5, 2014
Harper Government Making Changes to Cell Tower Placement Rules
January 14, 2014
700 MHz Wireless Spectrum Auction Begins Today
October 23, 2013
Statement by Minister Moore on Canada's Spectrum Transfer Framework
June 5, 2012
Canadian Telecom Summit
March 14, 2012
Harper Government Takes Action to Support Canadian Families
May 31, 2011
Minister Paradis at the 2011 Canadian Telecom Summit
November 22, 2010
An Interim Report on the Digital Economy and Telecom Strategies
November 28, 2007
Government opts for more competition in the wireless sector
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