Competition Bureau calls for more regulation to cut wireless roaming rates

Introducing a new national wireless carrier in Canada would result in lower consumer prices, but regulators need to do more than simply cap wholesale roaming rates to make that happen, the competition watchdog has told the country’s telecom regulator.

GATINEAU, Que. — Introducing a new national wireless carrier in Canada would result in lower consumer prices, but regulators need to do more than simply cap wholesale roaming rates to make that happen, the competition watchdog has told the country’s telecom regulator.

The Competition Bureau called for new wireless regulations as the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission launched into yet another delicate juggling act aimed at ensuring that both consumers and industry players benefit from a healthy wireless marketplace.

In a second of three major hearings being held this fall, the CRTC began public discussions Monday over the health of what is considered as the backbone of Canada’s retail mobile services sector — the wholesale wireless market.

The bureau told the regulator it needs to act to prevent the big three wireless carriers from stifling any new competition.

“An additional nationwide carrier would increase choice, expand mobile wireless penetration in Canada . . and drive down the incumbents’ average retail prices by about two per cent,” bureau senior economist Patrick Hughes told the hearings.

The CRTC is examining whether more regulation is needed to taper or cap the wholesale rates cellphone carriers charge other wireless companies to allow their customers to roam outside of their home networks.

And while the commission is not examining the roaming rates consumers pay, Hughes told the hearings that wholesale and retail markets are inherently linked.

As the hearings got underway, at least one think tank questioned whether the CRTC should do anything at all to affect the wholesale roaming market.

Despite the impression of some Canadians that they pay among the highest cellphone rates, consumers in many other countries pay more, said the Montreal Economic Institute.

“Prices in Canada are lower than in the United States, Japan, and Australia,” the institute said in a statement.

Still, the Competition Bureau told the CRTC there is evidence that the profit margins of the major wireless carriers are higher than they should be.

The Harper government has repeatedly tried — so far unsuccessfully — to entice a fourth national player to set up a wireless service in Canada to compete against Bell, Rogers and Telus.

However, Quebecor Inc. (TSX:QBR.B) has suggested the wholesale roaming rates it pays to piggy back on a major carrier’s cellphone towers may prevent it from expanding its mobile business.

Other smaller carriers have also said roaming rates are a major factor affecting their ability to compete.

But Rogers Communications Inc. (TSX:RCI.B), BCE Inc. (TSX:BCE) and Telus Corp. (TSX:T) maintain that further regulation would hinder their ability to invest in improvements to their own wireless networks.

Ottawa has already passed legislation capping the rates carriers can charge on a wholesale basis at no more than what they charge their customers at the retail level, pending the outcome of this week’s hearings.

Montreal-based Cogeco Cable Inc. (TSX:CCA), which is hoping to offer wireless services without building its own cell tower network, asked the CRTC to adopt new rules to allow for the creation of what are known as mobile virtual networks (MVNOs), which would effectively give smaller carriers access to large players’ spectrum and cell towers.

Without regulations, the big players, known as mobile network operators or MNOs, will continue to muscle smaller competitors out of existence, said Nathalie Dorval, Cogeco’s vice-president of regulatory affairs.

“Large MNOs can — and do — exercise market power in the wholesale wireless market . . . which, when combined, create formidable barriers to entry by new entrants (into the retail market),” she told the hearing.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

If you're heading out to the West Country have a plan in case things go wrong, says Clearwater Regional Fire Rescue Services fire chief Steve Debienne.
(Photo from CRFRS Facebook)
West Country visitors should have an emergency plan: regional fire chief

Cellphones can’t be relied on in many back country areas

Rode
Sarcevic leads an impressive list of additions to RDC Kings soccer

In 2019 the RDC Kings soccer program took a major step forward… Continue reading

The Red Deer PCN Women's Fun Run will take on a different look this weekend with rising COVID-19 numbers.
Women’s Fun Run goes ahead this weekend in Red Deer

With new public health measures in place because of rising COVID-19 case… Continue reading

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw asked Albertans to limit travel throughout the province as COVID-19 cases continue to rise. (Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Red Deer nears 900 active COVID-19 cases

Province reports additional 2,211 COVID-19 cases

David Eggen, the NDP’s advanced education critic, said the UCP government has been focused on cutting funding to post-secondary institutions across Alberta. (Contributed photo)
NDP worry new status for Red Deer College doesn’t mean more funding

This week the province announced that RDC will become a polytechnic institute

Alberta Health Services locked the Whistle Stop Cafe in Mirror on Wednesday morning after owner Christopher Scott refused to comply with health orders. (Photo by Paul Cowley/Advocate staff)
UPDATED: AHS shuts down Whistle Stop Cafe for defying health orders

Justice minister promises to get tough with those ignoring public health orders

Wizards beat Raptors in OT, Toronto playoff bid nearly over

Wizards beat Raptors in OT, Toronto playoff bid nearly over

Toronto Blue Jays' Teoscar Hernandez (37) hits a single to drive in two runs against the Oakland Athletics during the sixth inning of a baseball game in Oakland, Calif., on Thursday, May 6, 2021. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)
Grichuk drives in 5, Jays beat A’s 10-4 for series split

Grichuk drives in 5, Jays beat A’s 10-4 for series split

Canada's Sports Hall of Fame 2019 inductee Jayna Hefford speaks in Toronto on Wednesday, October 23, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Three Canadian teams to play in women’s hockey Dream Gap Tour in Calgary

Three Canadian teams to play in women’s hockey Dream Gap Tour in Calgary

Rugby Canada says some members of women’s sevens team have tested positive for COVID

Rugby Canada says some members of women’s sevens team have tested positive for COVID

Team Canada skip Kerri Einarson, centre, makes a shot as lead Briane Meilleur, left, and second Shannon Birchard sweep against Denmark at the Women's World Curling Championship in Calgary, Alta., Thursday, May 6, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Einarson’s five-game win streak ends with loss to Japan at world curling playdowns

Einarson’s five-game win streak ends with loss to Japan at world curling playdowns

FILE - In this Feb. 24, 2020, photo, the Olympics rings are reflected on the window of a hotel restaurant as a server with a mask sets up a table, in the Odaiba section of Tokyo. The vaccine rollout in Japan has been very slow with less than 1% vaccinated. This of course is spilling over to concerns about the postponed Tokyo Olympics that open in just over three months.(AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)
Canadian athletes, coaches applaud news of vaccine doses ahead of Tokyo

Canadian athletes, coaches applaud news of vaccine doses ahead of Tokyo

Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion Carla Qualtrough holds a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Thursday, Sept. 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Liberals pressed to ease access to EI parental leave to help unemployed moms

Liberals pressed to ease access to EI parental leave to help unemployed moms

Katie Telford, Chief of Staff to the Prime Minister, appears as a witness via videoconference during a House of Commons finance committee in Ottawa, Thursday, July 30, 2020. The Canadian Press has learned that Katie Telford has written members of the defence committee inquiry into allegations of sexual misconduct against Canada's former top military commander, offering to testify at their meeting Friday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
PM’s chief of staff offers to testify on Vance sexual misconduct allegations

PM’s chief of staff offers to testify on Vance sexual misconduct allegations

Most Read