As we reported earlier today, the Canadian Spectrum Sales totals were announced today, and were well over the original estimates of C$1.5 – C$1.8 billion, reaching a record C$5.27 billion (US$4.78 billion) to secure licenses for prime airwaves and a new national challenger may be on the horizon coming out of Quebec. This 700 megahertz spectrum is so valued because of its ability to not only travel over long distances but also to penetrate buildings making it useful for both rural or city use.
It is no surprise that the national carriers – Rogers, BCE Inc’s Bell, and TELUS Corp – purchased the majority of spectrum in order to expand and strengthen their wireless networks. Rogers was the biggest spender at C$3.29 billion, grabbing more than 60-percent of the total available and spending more than Bell and TELUS combine because they chose to bid only on paired blocks, considered the “prime” real estate of the spectrum auction. Unpaired blocks are harder to deploy and do not work as well between carriers, affecting roaming agreements. They secured a block of spectrum in every region of the country except in the three remote northern territories.
Rogers purchased A and B block spectrum, aligned with AT&T in the U.S. Bell focused their purchase to C Block in Eastern provinces and Southern Ontario to bolster its spectrum there, while TELUS purchased C Block as well but in its core area of Alberta and British Columbia. Videotron’s seven licenses were all C1 Block which works with Verizon in the U.S. Bragg, owners of Eastlink, also purchased paired upper C1 spectrum in the Maritimes and Northern Ontario.
The biggest surprise was from Quebecor Inc’s Videotron that created the most excitement as this regional cable and wireless company expanded its services outside its home base in Quebec. Quebecor paid C$233 million for spectrum in Ontario, Alberta, British Columbia, as well as its home base in Quebec. Those four providences are where most of the Canadian population lives. This reinforced what the Canadian Industry Minister spokesperson, James Moore, was hoping would happen – having four competitors in each region.
The other regional operators were a little less aggressive and they focused on the provinces of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and the Atlantic region as they needed spectrum in their respective home markets.
This latest sale of spectrum will really help wireless customers – not immediately, but certainly in the near future. They should notice better service, a better selection of smartphones, and even lower prices as competition increases among the carriers. Below is a detailed list of the purchases by carrier, Blocks, and Service Area.