Quebecor, the parent company of Quebec-based cableco Videotron, has announced that it wants to form an alliance with Manitoban telco MTS to expand their respective mobile services and to lobby the government to ensure that upcoming wireless spectrum auctions result in the introduction of a fourth national mobile operator. MTS has its own CDMA2000 1x and EV-DO network in Manitoba but would like to expand, whilst Videotron began reselling mobile services in Quebec over Rogers’ GSM network last year. A spokesman for MTS said last week that the Winnipeg-based firm ‘is working with companies and groups who are interested in auction rules that will permit new entry and more wireless competition in Canada.’
The federal government is holding consultations with industry players as to how it should auction off available spectrum. Submissions are due in mid-May and a decision on auction rules is expected in the autumn, ahead of a spectrum sale scheduled for early 2008. The three nationwide operators Bell, Telus and Rogers want a sale with as few rules as possible – a scenario, critics say, that would allow them to buy up all remaining spectrum to keep out new competitors. Quebecor and MTS, meanwhile, want rules that set aside spectrum for new regional or national entrants, and impose caps on how much spectrum incumbents are allowed to own. Toronto Hydro Telecom has expressed interest in acquiring spectrum, while a foreign operator could join a consortium with a minority interest – below 46.7% according to Canadian law.