Canadian regulator asks telcos to share network with smaller companies, agree to wholesale prices

Canadian regulator asks telcos to share network with smaller companies, agree to wholesale prices

Oct 19 (Reuters) – Canada’s biggest wireless companies will now have to accept requests for access to their networks from smaller companies as well as negotiate wholesale prices, the country’s telecoms regulator said on Wednesday, as it seeks to lower the cost of plans to mobile phones and increase competition.

For years, Canadian consumers have complained about high cellphone bills, which rank among the steepest in the world, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government has threatened to take action if providers don’t cut bills by 25%.

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) has since been under pressure to increase competition and lower prices where three companies – BCE Inc. (BCE.TO) Ring Unit, Telus Corp (T.TO) and Rogers Communications (RCIb.TO) control over 80% of the mobile subscriber market.

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Antitrust regulators delayed the $16 billion acquisition of Shaw Communications for that reason (SJRb.TO) by Rogers, arguing that the agreement would further reduce competition.

In April last year, the CRTC ruled that large telecommunications companies must offer wholesale wireless access to so-called mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs), smaller companies that can then resell capacity at discounted retail prices and pass the savings on to consumers, but with several provisions that were deemed profits for big companies.

In Wednesday’s ruling, the CRTC said the service would have a seven-year mandate, giving regional providers time to build and expand their wireless networks.

In addition, prices for MVNO access must be negotiated between providers.

Bell, Telus and Rogers did not immediately respond to Reuters requests for comment.

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Reporting by Eva Mathews in Bengaluru; Editing by Shailesh Kuber

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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