On February 20, the Canadian Radio-television and
Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) announced the launch of a public consultation to examine
competiveness in the Canadian wholesale mobile wireless roaming
market, with a view to determining whether regulatory intervention
is necessary. This follows an earlier fact-finding exercise and consultation investigating
whether large wireless providers charge excessive wholesale
wireless roaming rates to their smaller Canadian competitors.
To more efficiently service their subscribers in a
capital-intensive industry, wireless providers often enter into
wholesale arrangements with each other, including roaming
arrangements or sharing arrangements for towers, network or
spectrum. These deals allow smaller wireless providers to offer a
wider range of services over a greater geographic area. Industry
Canada mandates such roaming and sharing arrangements through
conditions attached to the spectrum licenses of wireless carriers,
but does not regulate the pricing of these arrangements.
The CRTC has the authority to regulate the rates charged by
Canadian carriers for the provision of telecommunications services;
however, pursuant to s. 34(2) of the Telecommunications
Act, the Commission must forbear from intervening
in mobile wireless pricing if there is sufficient competition in
the marketplace to protect the interests of users.
The current consultation is part of the CRTC's efforts to
determine whether the market remains sufficiently competitive to
continue to warrant forbearance. The CRTC is seeking comments on
Canadian market conditions and trends in wholesale mobile wireless
services - such as roaming, and tower and site sharing - and the
effect of wholesale trends on competition in the downstream retail
wireless market. Respondents are requested to provide evidence of
competitive or anticompetitive effects in the wholesale
marketplace, as well as their opinion as to whether greater
regulation would be beneficial.
Government policy objectives will factor into the CRTC's
analysis. Objectives include those in s. 7 of the Telecommunications
Act, encouragement of innovation and
investment in telecommunications facilities, fostering pricing
competition and broadening the range of services available for
The CRTC's efforts tie in with the government's
latest federal budget, which also
mentions concerns over wireless competition (such as those of the Competition
Bureau) and indicates plans to strengthen wireless
regulation and cap roaming rates (at least until the CRTC further
decides this issue). The budget also proposes to extend CRTC
enforcement powers by allowing the Commission to impose
administrative monetary penalties on companies that violate rules,
including those in the Wireless Code.
Wireless carriers and members of the public can submit comments
until May 1, 2014. The CRTC will hold a public hearing beginning on
September 29, 2014, in Gatineau, Que.
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