Thursday, November 29, 2007

Canada's Mobile Markets Are Opening Up Too!

I've been offsite all day at a Telus symposium - post about that coming tomorrow - and wanted to get this post out now for two reasons.

First, this news broke late yesterday, and I haven't had a chance to comment about it at all. It's a huge breakthrough for Canada's wireless market, and needs some blog attention.

Second, this news comes fresh on the heels of Verizon's ground-breaking news earlier this week about opening up their wireless networks. These two developments are quite different and certainly unrelated, but together, show that the stars are aligning for an even brighter future for mobility. I think it's pretty incredible that both items are occurring so close in time together.

The Verizon news is really out there and has been blogged everywhere, and I'm not about to add my two cents. It's late, I'm tired, and I'd rather draw attention to the Canadian story, against which Verizon forms a great backdrop.

In fact, I'm not going to tell you anything about the Canadian story. It's been covered quite well already, and I'll lead you first to colleague Mark Goldberg, who I saw briefly this morning at the Telus event. His post from yesterday is a great place to start. I'd also suggest Mark Evans' post.

The main idea is that Canada's mobile market is dominated by three carriers - Bell, Telus and Rogers - and with our small population, it's tough to see how we can support more operators. With a wireless spectrum auction coming next year, yesterday's news set the ground rules to ensure that enough spectrum will be made available for new entries.

There are many issues around this, but it's definitely a pro-competition development. While it does sow the seeds for new players, the likely reality is that only major operators will be able to get in the game, namely Videotron, Shaw and maybe MTS/Allstream. Foreign ownership restrictions will likely remain in place, so this would rule out some tiny carrier coming to market with heavy foreign backing.

Bottom line - the government may be doing the right thing to ensure opportunities for more players, but it's hard to create a more competitive market via regulation.

Videotron wasted no time announcing bold plans to invest $500 million in wireless broadband infrastructure once they acquire spectrum. It's going to take a lot of money to keep up with the big 3, and as with VoIP, it sure looks like the wireless market will quickly be come reduced to a battle between the telcos and the cablecos.

So, the gloves are off, and it's safe to say that the U.S. won't be the only market where wireless is about to undergo a radical shift. Never a dull moment....

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