Canada's Wireless Policy: More choice. Lower prices. Better service.Reader Rating: 3.43Star

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Canada's Wireless Policy

More choice. Lower prices.
Better service.

On July 7, 2014, Industry Minister James Moore announced the Government's plan to auction valuable Advanced Wireless Services-3 (AWS-3) spectrum to strengthen competition in Canada's wireless industry and to deliver more choice for Canadian consumers. AWS-3 spectrum is ideal for delivering fast, reliable service on the latest smartphones, tablets and mobile devices.

On July 28, 2014, Industry Canada launched a consultation on the proposals for auctioning AWS-3 spectrum, including a large set-aside of spectrum for new entrants, strict controls on transfers of this spectrum and a streamlined auction process. The AWS-3 auction will be held in March 2015, just before the auction of 2500 MHz spectrum. In order to allow companies more time to plan for both auctions, the application deadline for the 2500 MHz auction has been changed to January 30, 2015, to align with the proposed deadline for the AWS-3 auction.

Consistent with the Government's previous spectrum auctions, the AWS-3 auction will encourage more competition in the wireless market while ensuring the interests of consumers first.

On February 19, 2014, the Government announced the results of the auction of the 700 MHz band of Canada's wireless airwaves.

These high-quality airwaves were made available to carriers to provide Canadians with dependable high-speed wireless services on the latest technologies.

Consumers were the big winners in this auction. A fourth wireless provider obtained spectrum in every region of the country, delivering on the Government's commitment to encourage more competition in Canada's wireless industry.

The Government's wireless policy has already benefited Canadians through more choice, lower prices and better service. With new access to the 700MHz band of wireless airwaves, successful bidders will now be able to offer Canadians even more choice on the latest technologies.

This will build on the new rules already in place to protect consumers, introduced on December 2, 2013:

  • You may now cancel your new cell phone contract and return your phone at no cost within 15 days and subject to specific usage limits.
  • You may unlock your phone after 90 days, or immediately if your phone is paid for in full.

As part of the 2008 wireless auction, the Government set aside a portion of the airwaves for new competitors to give Canadians more choice.

As a result, prices fell by 22 percent and jobs in the wireless industry increased by 25 percent.

With the conclusion of the 700MHz spectrum auction, wireless providers now have new opportunities to further develop their services and provide Canadians with more choice. Because more choice means lower prices and better service.

Providers will be able to build their businesses while still adhering to the new rules to protect consumers that were introduced on December 2, 2013:

  • Data overage charges will be limited to $50 a month and data roaming charges to $100 a month.
  • You may cancel your cell phone contract after two years with no cancellation fee.
  • You will pay no extra charges for services described as "unlimited."

The recently concluded 700 MHz spectrum auction will allow successful bidders to offer more dependable high-speed wireless services on the latest technologies.

The Government of Canada will continue to pursue policies that ensure consumer interests are at the core of all government decisions.

The conclusion of the auction marks the next step in the Government's work to provide Canadians with more choice, lower prices and better service. This builds on the new rules to protect consumers that were introduced on December 2, 2013:

  • You will be notified of the costs of roaming in other countries.
  • You may refuse a change to the key terms and conditions of your contract.
  • You may suspend your service at no charge when your phone is lost or stolen.

Spectrum Auction

Tweet us @ICMoreChoice

Get the facts about Canada's wireless policy

Promoting More ChoiceClick or tap to find out more
Canada's largest wireless companies currently hold more than 85% of Canada's wireless airwaves and hold more than 90% of the Canadian market. Wouldn't it be nice to have more choice?
Find out more.
Taking Action to Improve ServiceClick or tap to find out more
Today, over 99% of Canadians have access to high-speed broadband. We have set strong rural requirements—the first of their kind in Canada—that will apply to those companies best positioned to deploy in rural areas. Additionally, updated roaming requirements ensure that your provider can offer service outside their coverage area. Find out more.
Clear Spectrum Auction RulesClick or tap to find out more
The rules for the 700 MHz auction were designed to assist all new entrants, Canadian or foreign, large or small, to provide competition in the best interest of Canadian consumers. These rules were put in place following extensive consultations with industry and Canadians. Find out more.
Protecting Your PrivacyClick or tap to find out more
Canada has strong privacy laws to ensure our citizens' personal information is safeguarded. These laws apply equally to all organizations that collect such information in Canada. The laws prevent any provider from disclosing personal information except with consent or when permissible by Canadian law. Find out more.
Listening to CanadiansClick or tap to find out more
The Government has consulted extensively with Canadians on the future of Canada's wireless sector. The message has been consistent and clear: Canadians want more choice, better service and lower prices. The Government's policies have been designed to achieve this and are the result of years of working and consulting with Canadians and stakeholders. Find out more.
More Jobs in the Wireless IndustryClick or tap to find out more
Since 2008, the total number of jobs in Canada's wireless industry has increased by more than 25%. In fact, according to the CWTA demand for skilled specialists is so great that post-secondary institutions are creating programs specifically for jobs in the industry. 
Find out more.

Economic Action Plan 2014 – Putting Consumers First

"When Canadian families spend their hard-earned money, they should be confident that they are being treated fairly in a competitive marketplace. That's why we took steps to increase competition in the wireless sector, which has reduced wireless rates by 20 per cent."

– Jim Flaherty, Finance Minister, February 11

To build on this progress, the Government committed in Economic Action Plan 2014 to take steps to:

  • Lower wholesale roaming rates within Canada;
  • Give telecommunications regulators the power to impose financial penalties on companies that do not comply with the rules; and
  • Invest $305 million over five years to extend and enhance broadband Internet service for Canadians in rural and Northern communities.

Find out more about Economic Action Plan 2014.

Key dates—What you need to know about the 700 MHz spectrum auction



12:00 noon (EDT) on
September 17, 2013

Deadline for receipt of applications to participate in the auction and 5% of the pre-auction financial deposits

  • The 5% deposit due is based on the number of blocks the applicant wants to acquire.
  • Each block is worth a certain number of eligibility points.
  • Each eligibility point is worth $130,000.



September 23, 2013

Publication of the list of applicants, with beneficial ownership and associated entities information

  • Beneficial ownership is the ownership structure of the applicant (who the major owners are, etc.).
  • Associated entities are the companies the applicant has relationships or agreements with in relation to the 700 MHz spectrum.
  • This information has been posted on the Industry Canada website.



October 22, 2013

Publication of the list of provisionally qualified bidders

  • A list of all provisionally qualified applicants (based on Industry Canada's review of ownership and associated entities, compliance with the rules, etc.) will be published.
  • Applicants are provisionally qualified until they have paid the full deposit (see next date below).
  • This information will be posted on the Industry Canada website, and there will be a link from



12:00 noon (EDT) on
October 29, 2013

Deadline for receipt of the remaining 95% of pre-auction financial deposits

  • Applicants must submit 95% of the deposit by this date to be fully qualified to bid in the auction.



November 8, 2013

Publication of final list of qualified bidders

  • A list of all qualified applicants who have submitted 100% of their deposit and met all eligibility requirements to participate in the auction will be published.
  • This information will be posted on the Industry Canada website, and there will be a link from



Beginning November 27, 2013

Auction preparation for qualified bidders

  • Bidders will receive training on the auction software.
  • Industry Canada will also hold an information session and mock auctions for qualified bidders.



January 14, 2014

Auction start—opening of bidding

  • Web-based bidding takes place via secure specialized software at a location of each bidder's choosing.



Feb 19 – Announcement of Results

Announcement and publication of provisional licence winners



April 2 – Final Payment Due

  • All provisional winners are required to pay the remaining 80 percent of the final amount by April 2, 2014 – 30 business days after the initial announcement of provisional licence winners.
  • Licences will be issued once all payments are made and provisional winners are found to be compliant with ownership and control requirements.

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.

—Simon Lockie
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

Despite [the] campaign, the government should stick with its approach to encourage new competition.

—Michael Geist, Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-commerce Law
Toronto Star, 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.

Consumers Association of Canada president Bruce Cran, in a Public Interest Advocacy Centre news release

Faced with a choice between an American company fighting to gain a foothold in a hostile market or a Canadian one who takes my hard earned money for granted, I'll pick the lesser of two evils.

Blogger Ben Klass, "I Am Canadian, a Reply to Bell's Open Letter"

Consumers are telling us they welcome the new choices Verizon's entry will bring…We are hearing also that Consumers are offended by the extravagance of the major telecom's massive advertising program attacking the Harper Government's decision.

Consumers Association of Canada news release

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. executive director Steve Anderson, in Ottawa Life Magazine

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. executive director Steve Anderson, to CBC News

…With Verizon we are not proposing to gift anything, but we are offering the right to bid to buy more than a single block. Given that the incumbents hold over 90 percent of the available spectrum already, that only seems fair, and appropriate if, in fact, a little stingy in terms of a welcome.

—Seaboard Group managing director Iain Grant, to the Canadian Press

Government action timeline

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