Public Mobile was acquired yesterday by Telus Mobility in a deal given the federal government’s stamp of approval by Minister of Industry James Moore. A new entrant to the wireless market that launched service in Toronto and Montreal in 2010, the company’s life was short lived, but eventful. We look back at the events leading up to its eventual acquisition by Telus.
Public Mobile participates in Industry Canada’s advanced wireless spectrum auction as BMV Holdings, paying $52 million for PCS spectrum between Windsor, Ont. and Montreal. Compared to the other prices paid for spectrum by new entrants, Public Mobile spent very little to acquire what is considered to be unwanted spectrum not supported by any handsets.
Public Mobile shows off a ZTE C78 CDMA handset that supports its PCS, or G-band spectrum and makes a phone call with it. Technically, it’s the first wireless call made by a new entrant using spectrum acquired in the auction. Public Mobile says it will offer one plan of unlimited talk and text for $40 a month, targeting the one-third of Canadians that didn’t own a cell phone at the time.
March 19, 2010
Public Mobile opens 15 stores in Toronto and 10 in Montreal despite its network not being available for use by customers, projecting it will go online in May. The $40 per month unlimited talk and text plan is the main selling point and customers are able to pre-register. It offers free Canadian long distance to any customer that keeps their bills paid. There’s no support for data plans. When asked about why Public Mobile opened stores ahead of launching its network, Krstajic takes it as an opportunity to jab Wind Mobile:
“If we turned it on today, we’d have a customer experience not dissimilar from Wind’s,” Krstajic said – referring to Globalive Communications Corp.’s challenges as the first new entrant on the Canadian scene. “You’d have a hole here and a hole there, and it won’t work everywhere. That, we think is unacceptable.”
By the time it launches in Toronto May 14, it has 60 stores in Toronto and Montreal combined. Montreal’s network goes live June 25. Krstajic says thousands of customers signed up before the service went live. It also adds a $24 plan for unlimited local calling, call forwarding, and three-way calling. At the time, roaming outside of the network coverage area is not supported. “We want everything we sell currently to be offered on a flat-rate basis and roaming can’t be done that way,” Krstajic says.
With carriers commenting on how they’d like to see the next government wireless spectrum auction conducted, the faster and more reliable 700 Mhz spectrum, Public Mobile sides with other new entrants against incumbents. Telus Corp. says it wants to see a cap in place for each bidder in the spectrum auction, which would leave over spectrum for new entrants. Meanwhile Public Mobile advocates for some spectrum to bet set aside specifically for new entrants to bid on.
November 17, 2011
Public Mobile offers its first two smartphones, Android-based MAX and ZTE N762 low-cost handsets. A $45 per month plan available for the smartphones includes unlimited data.
Public Mobile launches Siren, an unlimited music download service for its customers using Android smartphones. It follows a Cash Services add-on that was unveiled earlier in the month giving customers the ability to pay bills, cash cheques, transfer money, or buy a prepaid MasterCard when paying their cell phone bill. The Siren library carriers more than 1 million songs at launch from major labels. Free to its users, the downloaded music had to be accessed via the Siren app and a Public Mobile account in good standing was required.
At a launch event for Siren in Toronto, Krstajic also looks ahead to the next wireless spectrum auction and comments on the likelihood of a consolidation amongst new entrants.
“If there is a consolidation, we’re at a point now, very clearly, we are buyers not sellers,” he says. “Some of these boys have to check their egos at the door, sit down and have a real conversation.”
Along with other new entrants Wind Mobile and Mobilicity, Public Mobile withdraws from the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association (CWTA). The group shows “consistent bias in favour of Rogers, Bell, and Telus on a wide variety of issues,” a press release states. “From this point, the CWTA does not, and cannot claim to speak on behalf of the Canadian mobile wireless sector. The CWTA says it is surprised by the move and disagrees that it plays favourites.
June 6, 2013
Public Mobile is acquired by Toronto-based Thomvest Seed Capital and New York-based Cartesian Capital for a deal with undisclosed terms. A press release says the investors will commit to bring Public Mobile to a cash flow positive position. Public Mobile says it will take part in the 700 Mhz spectrum auction and says it is interested in pursuing consolidation opportunities.
Oct. 23, 2013
Public Mobile is 100 per cent acquired by Telus.