Telus, Bell Mop Up Residual AWS-3 Licences in Prairies

Nationwide operators Telus and Bell Canada were declared winners of residual AWS-3 (2100MHz/1700MHz) 4G spectrum licences at the end of August in the ‘leftover’ concession auction run by Industry Canada. Telus paid CAD58 million (USD43.8 million) for six additional AWS-3 licence blocks covering Manitoba and Saskatchewan, while Bell secured another nine AWS-3 concessions (three in each of the Far North territories: Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut) costing CAD206,000. The two national operators outbid SaskTel (in Saskatchewan), MTS (Manitoba) and SSi Micro (Far North). There were no takers for three leftover 700MHz licences.

The main AWS-3 auction earlier this year augmented the Canadian cellcos’ existing AWS-1 frequencies (awarded in 2008). In March 2015 Telus paid CAD1.511 billion for 15 regional 2100MHz/1700MHz licence blocks in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Southern Ontario, Eastern Ontario, Eastern Quebec and Southern Quebec, and following the residual auction Telus now has 21 AWS-3 spectrum licences covering all major regions of the country. In March 2015 Bell bid CAD499.9 million for 13 AWS-3 regional licence blocks in Newfoundland & Labrador, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, Northern Quebec, Southern Ontario, Northern Ontario, Nunavut, Northwest Territories and Yukon, meaning it now holds a total of 22 blocks in the band. The March 2015 auction also saw Wind Mobile, Videotron and Eastlink buy AWS-3 concessions set aside for newer entrants.

Thanks to TeleGeography for the article.

Wind Selling LTE Spectrum in Prairies to MTS, Sasktel; MTS Moves to Divest Allstream

Canada’s fourth largest cellular operator by subscribers Wind Mobile has won approval from the telecoms ministry Industry Canada to transfer its unused AWS (1700MHz/2100MHz) spectrum licences in the Prairie provinces of Manitoba and Saskatchewan to the two regions’ respective incumbent telcos Manitoba Telecom Services (MTS Allstream) and SaskTel, which will each add the frequencies to their existing 4G LTE bandwidth. SaskTel CEO Ron Styles said in a press release: ‘Our 4G LTE network in the nine major urban centres in Saskatchewan operates on the AWS-1 spectrum band and with these additional blocks we can deliver significantly more bandwidth and faster speeds.’ SaskTel’s communications director Michelle Englot added, however, that final terms including price had not yet been agreed, as the Regina-based telco remained in negotiations with Wind. MTS, on the other hand, released a statement confirming that it has agreed to purchase 15MHz of paired AWS-1 spectrum in Manitoba from Wind for CAD45 million (USD34.3 million), saying that the acquisition will ‘significantly increase the speed and customer experience on the MTS wireless network to the benefit of many Manitobans.’

Wind’s CEO Alek Krstajic stated that the company will channel the proceeds from the spectrum sales into network expansion and quality improvements including LTE services in Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta.

MTS added in its release that it will finance the CAD45 million spectrum payment to Wind using existing credit facilities which it plans to repay following its planned sale of its national long-distance and enterprise telecoms division Allstream. The Winnipeg Free Press notes that in MTS’ latest results for Q2 2015, the dramatic downsizing of the Toronto-based Allstream division drove free cash flow up 41% to CAD45.4 million, while the company said that management has shifted focus to manage the exit of Allstream ‘that will maximise value while promoting deal certainty.’ MTS has retained advisors and plans to formally approach prospective purchasers for Allstream in the second half of this year. MTS’ revenue for the second quarter was down 1.2% year-on-year to CAD398.3 million, EBITDA fell 14.5% to CAD121.9 million and net income dropped 47.5% to CAD10.4 million.

Thanks to TeleGeography for the article.

Feds Study Telus, Rogers Bids for Mobilicity; Founder Proposes Alternative MVNO Strategy

Canada’s two largest mobile operators by users, Rogers and Telus, have recently tabled takeover offers for financially struggling smaller cellco Mobilicity, although any potential deal is subject to federal government approval under strict wireless spectrum transfer rules aimed at preserving competition, the Financial Post reports. According to sources quoted by the paper, a group of creditors and directors of Mobilicity met over the weekend to assess offers from both national operators exceeding the previous CAD350 million (USD285 million) offer from Telus rejected last year by Industry Canada under the spectrum transfer rules designed to prevent nationwide incumbents gaining smaller competitors’ 3G/4G frequencies. Telus spokesperson Shawn Hall confirmed that the company remains interested in purchasing Mobilicity and put forth a proposed transaction to Industry Canada for review, while talks remain ongoing and confidential, with Rogers currently unwilling to comment. A key part of a potential deal would involve agreeing a free-of-cost transfer of Mobilicity’s AWS-1 frequencies to mid-tier cellco Wind Mobile post-purchase to circumvent the government’s competition-guarding policy. Telus confirmed that its latest proposal includes this free-transfer clause, and although this idea has previously been rejected by Industry Canada, there could be federal backing for a move bolstering Wind’s position following March’s AWS-3 spectrum auction in which Wind raised its profile against nationwide players Rogers, Telus and Bell by winning set-aside licences in Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia for minimal prices after Mobilicity failed to find the funding to participate. So far, the government is remaining opaque on the latest prospects for a deal, with Minister of Industry James Moore’s press secretary Jake Enwright saying on Sunday: ‘We’ve had a clear position on these types of transactions for some time. We’ll not approve spectrum transfer requests that decrease competition in the wireless sector.’

Meanwhile, a separate proposal has been aired by Mobilicity founder John Bitove – backed by his holding company Obelysk – and a group of Mobilicity employees who have made an offer to Industry Canada to become a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO). Mobilicity itself is not involved in the MVNO bid.

Mobilicity has around 157,000 remaining subscribers and a network of around 450 3G cell sites in Toronto, Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary and Ottawa, operating under court-sanctioned creditor protection since September 2013 as it continues to seek an optimal exit strategy for creditors and investors.

Thanks to TeleGeography for the article. 

Nine Operators Win 2500MHz Licences

Canada’s Industry Minister James Moore yesterday (12 May 2015) announced the list of provisional licence winners in the Broadband Radio Service (BRS) spectrum auction in the 2500-2690MHz (‘2500MHz’) band. 302 of 318 licences on offer in 61 areas across Canada were awarded to nine companies, with a total value of CAD755.37 million (USD626.49 million), after eleven participants were qualified to bid in the auction which opened on 14 April. The 2500MHz band licensing was particularly aimed at providing broadband services in rural areas, whilst also increasing the spectrum available nationwide to meet the demand for 4G mobile services on smartphones and tablets. The auction featured spectrum caps and smaller geographic licence areas to ensure that four or more wireless carriers, as well as rural internet service providers, had the opportunity to hold 2500MHz spectrum licences in every area of the country. All licences contain strict ‘use it or lose it’ deployment requirements.

The nine licence winners bid the following amounts (for 2500MHz concessions in the named provinces/territories):

Telus – CAD478.82 million (Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, British Columbia, Yukon, Northwest Territories, Nunavut);

Videotron – CAD186.95 million (Quebec, Ontario, Alberta, British Columbia);

Bell – CAD29.98 million (Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, Alberta, British Columbia, Yukon, Northwest Territories, Nunavut);

Xplornet – CAD25.43 million (Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, Alberta, British Columbia);

Rogers – CAD24.09 million (Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, British Columbia);

Eastlink – CAD4.82 million (Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Ontario, Alberta);

Corridor Communications (CCI Wireless) – CAD2.30 million (Ontario, Alberta);

MTS Allstream – CAD2.24 million (Manitoba);

TBayTel – CAD1.73 million (Ontario).

Two other qualified bidders, Wind Mobile and SSi Micro, did not acquire any licences.

Thanks to TeleGeography for the article.

Ten Applicants for AWS-3 Auction; Eleven Line up for 2600MHz

Telecoms ministry Industry Canada has published the full list of ten applicants for the upcoming auction of spectrum licences for Advanced Wireless Services (AWS-3) in the bands 1755-1780MHz and 2155-2180MHz, namely: Rogers Communications, Telus Communications, Bell Mobility, Wind Mobile, Videotron, Data & Audio-Visual Enterprises Wireless (Mobilicity), Bragg Communications (Eastlink), MTS, Saskatchewan Telecommunications (SaskTel) and TBayTel. Publication of the list of qualified bidders is set for 13 February, with the sealed bid deadline on 3 March. Announcement of provisional AWS-3 licence winners will take place on 6 March.

Simultaneously, Industry Canada published the official list of eleven applicants for the auction of Broadband Radio Service (BRS) spectrum licences in the 2500-2690MHz band, namely: Rogers Communications, Telus Communications, Bell Mobility, Wind Mobile, Videotron, Bragg Communications (Eastlink), MTS, TBayTel, Xplornet Communications, Corridor Communications (CCI Wireless) and SSi Micro (affiliated to companies including Northern Broadband, Northern Space Link, Broadsky Communications, SSi Connexions and others). The final list of qualified 2600MHz bidders will be published on 13 February, ahead of an auction which opens on 14 April. Provisional 2600MHz licence winners will be announced within five days following cessation of bidding.

Thanks to TeleGeography for the article. 

Canada Unveils Plans for ‘Unprecedented’ Release of Mobile Spectrum

Canada’s government has announced plans to release an ‘unprecedented amount of mobile spectrum’ in 2015, with Industry Canada claiming that by May 2015 the amount of spectrum available to provide mobile services to consumers will have increased by almost 60% against early 2014.

As part of its plans, the state has confirmed it will launch an auction of ‘Advanced Wireless Spectrum-3’ (‘AWS-3’) frequencies (1755MHz-1780MHz, 2155MHz-2180MHz) on 3 March 2015, with it saying these will ‘enable the delivery of fast, reliable service on the latest smartphones, tablets and mobile devices and to encourage sustained competition’. In addition, the government said it will seek views on plans to make spectrum in the 600MHz band available for mobile use, and plans to provide a path for mobile use in the 3500MHz frequency band, while maintaining existing fixed-wireless internet services in rural areas. Further, the state intends to develop a plan to enable use of the AWS-4 spectrum band (2000MHz-2020MHz and 2180MHz-2200MHz) in order to enable the launch of a new operator, with a view to increasing ‘[the] choice to Canadians, especially those in rural and remote areas’. Rounding out the plans, Industry Canada said an additional 2100MHz of spectrum will be made available, while it intends to establish a ‘more efficient and consistent process’ for new concessions in the 24GHz, 28GHz and 38GHz bands.

Commenting on the plans, James Moore, Canada’s Minister of Industry, said: ‘Spectrum is essential to power our wireless devices, and our government is making it more available than ever before. The end result is that Canadians will benefit from more competition, lower prices and better service in our wireless sector. The Harper Government is committed to delivering competitively priced wireless services on the latest technologies.’

Thanks to TeleGeography for the article.

Government Approves Wind Sale

The Canadian government yesterday approved the previously announced sale of Globalive Wireless (Wind Mobile) to an investor group that includes the company’s chairman, after deciding that the transaction will bolster competition in the cellular market, the Wall Street Journal reports. Federal approval came with conditions including a pledge by Wind Mobile’s new ownership to significantly invest in new spectrum and expansion of network infrastructure across Canada. It was announced in September that Canada’s fourth-largest cellular operator by subscribers was being sold by Russian-backed Vimpelcom’s Egypt-based subsidiary Global Telecom Holding (GTH) to Toronto-based Globalive Capital, controlled by Wind’s chairman Anthony Lacavera, with the transaction partly financed by an investor group led by Canadian hedge fund West Face Capital, going under the consortium name AAL Acquisitions Corp. Other members of the US/Canadian buying consortium are Tennenbaum Capital Partners, LG Capital Investors, Serruya Private Equity and Novus Wireless Communications. Including debt, the value of the deal was reported as roughly CAD300 million (USD264 million), while Vimpelcom/GTH announced the majority equity stake was bought for approximately CAD135 million. The telecoms ministry Industry Canada has also approved the required spectrum licence transfer. Additionally, Anthony Lacavera has stepped down as CEO of Wind Mobile, but remains as chairman, while Pietro Cordova is promoted to the CEO post.

Thanks to TeleGeography for the article. 

Rural Communities Invited To Grab Connecting Canadians Broadband Funds

Canada’s government yesterday (22 July 2014) invited rural and remote communities that lack high speed internet access to submit claims for a portion of the CAD305 million (USD284 million) broadband access rollout funding it has set aside over the next three years under the ‘Connecting Canadians’ programme. The government is aiming to extend internet access at connection speeds of at least 5Mbps – via fixed or wireless networks – to 280,000 households that it calculates currently lack access to such services. Reuters reports that many of the underserved areas shown on the government’s map are in the Prairie provinces of Saskatchewan and Alberta and farther west in British Columbia, while Ottawa has stated that the connection initiative should mean 98% of Canadian households will have broadband services by 2017.

Thanks to TeleGeography for the article.

Canada Auctioning AWS-3 Band Before April

Following on from its nationwide 700MHz 4G licence auction completed in February, Industry Canada yesterday (7 July 2014) announced that it will launch an auction of ‘AWS-3’ mobile spectrum (1700MHz/2100MHz paired frequencies in bands adjacent to the existing AWS licensed 3G/4G spectrum) early next year – before the 2500MHz licence auction scheduled for April 2015. An announcement from the ministry said that AWS-3 spectrum is ‘ideal for delivering fast, reliable service [including 4G LTE] to Canadians on the latest smartphones, tablets and mobile devices’, while anticipating that the proximity to the operational AWS band will facilitate expedited network deployment and availability of consumer handsets. The AWS-3 auction will have rules including:

  • a 30MHz block of spectrum (of a total of 50MHz of available bandwidth) set aside for operating new entrants;
  • strict provisions on the transfer of AWS-3 spectrum so that Canadian consumers benefit from increased competition in wireless services; and
  • a simpler, shorter auction process that will provide operating new entrants with a visible path to high-quality spectrum.

Specifically, the government will set aside one 30MHz block of AWS-3 spectrum in each region of the country; wireless carriers with less than 10% national and 20% provincial/territorial wireless subscriber market share will be eligible to bid on the ‘set-aside’ in licence areas where they are providing services.

Consultations on the licensing of this spectrum will begin ‘this summer’, the release added. Feedback is being sought on proposed details, including:

  • whether licences for AWS-3 should include deployment requirements in both the short term (for example, five years after the licences are issued) and the long term (ten years after); and
  • whether a simplified and accelerated auction process, using a sealed-bid format, would be the best approach to encourage participation.

TeleGeography notes that in the United States, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is currently consulting on an upcoming auction of AWS-3 frequencies (in the 1695MHz-1710MHz, 1755MHz-1780MHz and 2155MHz-2180MHz bands).

Thanks to TeleGeography for the article. 

Telus Abandons Bid For Mobilicity (Again)

Canada’s Telus has dropped its latest bid to acquire financially-stricken smaller cellular rival Mobilicity, the Globe & Mail reports. The newspaper writes that Telus informed Mobilicity this week that it was withdrawing its latest takeover offer because ‘conditions of the deal had not been met’. One condition was that the federal government approve the transfer of spectrum between Mobilicity and Telus – a move which Ottawa opposed in two previous attempts by Telus to buy the smaller company. Last month Telus agreed terms to purchase Mobilicity for CAD350 million (USD317.6 million) in a transaction to be implemented under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act (CCAA). The telecoms ministry Industry Canada had blocked both previous takeover attempts by Telus under a spectrum transfer policy aiming to restrict acquisition of new entrants’ 3G/4G frequencies by national incumbents. The latest development reportedly leaves Mobilicity, which is operating under bankruptcy protection, without a known bidder to take over the company.

Thanks to TeleGeography for the article.