Canada Competition Bureau

Canada To Auction 700 MHz And AWS-3 Wireless Spectrum in August

May 3, 2015 - Written By Cory McNutt

The year 2015 may be the year of spectrum auctions in Canada – we are barely into May and the Industry Minister James Moore announced the third auction this year for some time in August.  There they will auction off the unallocated spectrum licenses from their recent 700MHz and AWS-3 auctions.  Spectrum, though invisible, is a vital part of infrastructure that supports Canada’s information highway.  Canada’s Industry minister has tried countless ways to get that spectrum into the hands of the new entrants and out of the hands of the Big Three in hope of expanding coverage in outlying areas as well as increase competition in an effort to lower prices – the Big Three consist of Rogers, Bell and TELUS.  Less than a year ago they held almost 90-percent of the spectrum, but with the recent two auctions for 2500MHz and AWS-3 spectrum, it is estimated that they now only hold 75-percent while the newer, smaller companies hold about 25-percent.  The long range results that the government is hoping for are more choices, lower prices and better service for all customers, but especially the ones in the less inhabited areas.

While many believe that the government has too much control over the wireless industry in Canada – mainly the Big Three – James Moore, Minister of Industry, believes, “Spectrum is an essential public resource, and it is our job as a government to ensure it is allocated in such a way that encourages robust competition and choice in our wireless market. This auction, like all of our previous auctions, is designed with the interests of Canadian consumers first. We look forward to seeing consumers benefit.”

The Government of Canada plans to use a sealed-bid format similar to the AWS-3 auction.  One license, a 700 MHz block serving Yukon, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut, will be split into three licenses, one for each region.  An unsold block of 30MHz will be split into three 10MHz licenses in each respective providence.  The unallocated AWS-3 licenses will have their set-aside provisions removed, so that all interested parties, even the Big Three can bid in hopes that they would expand into underserved territories.