Mobilicity wants the government to introduce a “Spectrum Screen” to limit hoarding

Mobilicity, one of Canada’s newest wireless players, has sent Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Industry Minister Christian Paradis a letter about their thoughts on the upcoming 700MHz spectrum auction. We’re not sure if the political cartoon they commissioned was included, but the basis of the letter was that they’re now supporting the use of a “Spectrum Screen”. This “spectrum screen”, which measures if a company would hold too much spectrum, was recently used by the FCC in the States and blocked the AT&T/T-Mobile merger from happening.

In Canada the upcoming 700MHz spectrum auction is a hot topic. This “beachfront property” or “Cadillac” spectrum is cheaper for carriers to deploy, can easily reach remote areas, and has the ability to penetrate through thick walls in buildings. Some carriers – Rogers, Bell and TELUS – are in favour of the auction being “open and fair”, others would like a set-aside or cap (Wind Mobile, Mobilicity, Videotron and Public Mobile), similar to what ushered in the new players in 2008.

John Bitove, Mobilcity Executive Chairman, stated in his letter that the Big 3 (Rogers, Bell and TELUS) are spectrum hoarders and the “lack of competition” that Canada currently has goes back to the 1980’s when the government gave the incumbent carriers free spectrum to initially build out wireless. Bitove wrote that “this problem could have been easily avoided if the government had implemented a stringent ‘Spectrum Screen’ in the first place.”

In addition to the Spectrum Screen, Mobilicity also encouraged the government to enforce the incumbents to have an auction “cap” that “ensures a carrier’s holdings do not exceed a predefined threshold”, plus Bitove also urged the government to “proactively regulate all used and unused spectrum holdings” to foster “a healthy, competitive wireless industry is in all of our best interests”.

Christian Paradis is supposed to announce an auction date soon, but has stated in the past that “this is not a decision that I nor this government will be taking lightly. When we make those decisions, we will announce them – clearly and directly”. It’s rumoured that the auction will happen late 2012 or early 2013 and the future for all carriers truly depends on it, mainly for its LTE (Long Term Evolution) capabilities. The 2008 AWS spectrum auction saw the government successfully sell 292 licences for $4,254,710,327. It’s estimated that the 700MHz will bring in more money.

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