The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunication Commission (CRTC) has determined that Bell, Rogers, Sasktel and Telus (the incumbents) have 90 days, starting today, to negotiate Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) access agreements with regional providers.
By Aug. 7, companies must have executed the MVNO access agreements, while the incumbent carriers have to ensure by Jun. 8 that the service is operational and ready for use.
As soon as the deals are reached, the CRTC said it expects regional competitors to start selling plans in new parts of Canada so that Canadians have more choice of cell phone services.
Today’s ruling comes after the CRTC set out an initial policy in 2021, allowing regional cell phone providers to compete as MVNOs across Canada. Under this policy, large cell phone companies must share their networks with competitors who are able to serve in areas that incumbent carriers do not operate.
In 2022, the CRTC drafted a set of proposed terms and conditions aimed at ensuring the wholesale MVNO access service is as effective as possible. The terms and conditions spanned spectrum holding requirements, access to 5G, and other issues.
The CRTC found that the incumbents mostly complied with these terms when they submitted their tariffs, but proposed some changes. The revised tariffs have to be submitted to the CRTC by May 19.
This ruling also denotes the increased focus of the CRTC toward bolstering competition and consumer rights, following the issuance of the new policy direction. The new policy direction also mandated that the CRTC improve its hybrid MVNO model and look to move to a full MVNO model if necessary.
“The CRTC is taking action to promote competition in the cell phone services market,” said CRTC chairperson, Vicky Eatrides, in a release. “Today’s decision builds on our efforts to ensure that Canadians benefit from lower prices and more choice for telecommunications services.”
According to the CRTC’s website, ISP Telecom Inc, Sugar Mobile, and Data On Tap Inc. have received approval to register as MVNOs. The applications of several other companies have either been rejected or are in progress.