Those waiting for the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission’s (CRTC) big decision on whether to allow the resale of wireless services will be disappointed.
Canada’s telecommunications body has ruled that it will conduct a thorough review of its wholesale wireless framework “in the near term”, pushing the decision of whether to allow small players to resell the services of the big telecom corporations off by at least another year.
In its Mar. 22 public release, the CRTC says that “while wireless resale represents an important part of a fully functioning wireless market, it would be premature for the Commission to change its policy on mandated wholesale access.”
By allowing the resale of wireless services, the CRTC would have opened the doors for small telecom players called Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs) – who have no wireless network of their own – to access the wireless networks owned by larger players and resell those services as consumer data plans at a cheaper price.
This comes after wireless provider TNW Wireless asked the CRTC in July 2017 to compel Bell and Telus to provide it with wholesale roaming agreements so it could offer data-only phone subscriptions across Canada.
The CRTC initially ruled in March 2017 that Ice Wireless’ Toronto-based subsidiary Sugar Mobile wasn’t allowed to offer services to Canadians outside of its coverage area in the territories. It said that Sugar was allowing its subscribers to obtain permanent access to Rogers network, rather than the incidental access that would be involved in a roaming scenario.
But a few months later in June, Innovation, Science, and Economic Development Minister Navdeep Bains announced the government would ask the CRTC to review that decision, and now here we are – still without a decision.
In the meantime, the CRTC also used today’s non-decision to reset wholesale wireless roaming rates for regional players to “44-99 per cent lower” than pre-2015 levels. While rates for the big three vary slightly, they all hover around 1.4 cents per MB.
The Commission has also decided not to expand the definition of a “home network” to include public Wi-Fi because, according to its release, there would be no way of discerning between a “service provider’s home network and all other network equipment connected to the Internet.”
Early reactions from the telecom industry has been mellow, to say the least.
Takeaway from CRTC decision: carriers win. Mandated MVNO via CRTC years away, if ever. Low cost data-only plans may assist some on affordability but won’t address broader pricing concerns. In short, the Commission won’t do much on wireless competition. Over to you @NavdeepSBains.
— Michael Geist (@mgeist) March 22, 2018