Cogeco CEO voices support for Wi-Fi-first MVNO model

Cogeco opts out of the 600 MHz spectrum auction

Cogeco’s CEO Louis Audet has added his voice to the chorus of those advocating for a new model of wireless reselling in Canada.

Cogeco sells cable and internet services in Ontario and Quebec, but has yet to enter the wireless market, instead advocating for lower wireless reselling rates.

Audet told The Globe and Mail in a recent interview that Canada’s Big Three carriers, Bell, Rogers and Telus, don’t offer “commercially reasonable” rates that would allow wireless resellers (also known as mobile virtual network operators or MVNOs) to offer more competition in the market, as they do in the U.S.

“The established players have no interest in seeing MVNOs and greater competition. So, if the government becomes serious about enabling competition, it will grant WiFi-based operators the status of facilities-based competitors, which can then roam on other people’s networks,” said Audet.

In fact, the government has taken the first step in that direction. Minister of Innovation, Science, Innovation and Economic Development (ISED) Navdeep Bains ordered the CRTC to reconsider a decision related to Wi-Fi-first MVNOs in June.

The 2017 decision sewed shut a loophole that allowed Sugar Mobile to operate in all areas of the country. Previous to the decision, the carrier relied on Wi-Fi service as its ‘home network’ and allowed users to roam on Rogers’ wireless network by piggybacking on sister brand Ice Wireless’ roaming agreement.

Following the reconsideration, Sugar Mobile CEO Samer Bishay told MobileSyrup: “I think is great news for Canadians overall, because we’re going to do our part to deliver what we said we would and I think it’s just a matter of time before we maybe re-enter into some discussions with the operators that have been fighting us all along.”

The CRTC has been directed to complete its reconsideration by no later than March 31st, 2018.

During the interview with the The Globe, Audet also said Cogeco would also consider buying its own wireless spectrum if the licences in the upcoming 600MHz auction were tailored to smaller geographic areas to cover just its existing cable footprint.

Additionally, he responded to speculation that Rogers might sell its stake in Cogeco — worth about $1.5 billion. Audet stated he thought it was “perfectly reasonable” for Rogers to want to get rid of what he called “dormant capital,” but said it was ultimately Rogers’ decision.

Source: The Globe and Mail