MVNOs, or Mobile Virtual Network Operators, are on the rise worldwide. Hybrid MVNOs, networks that coax customers to use Wi-Fi when possible and have roaming agreements for when customers are off of Wi-Fi, are becoming fairly popular, with the charge largely being led internationally by big names like Republic Wireless. Smaller, regional hybrid MVNOs have started to pop up as well. One such smaller name, Sugar Mobile, is owned by a fairly popular local VOIP provider, Iristel. Using home and public Wi-Fi and Iristel’s extensive network holdings, Sugar Mobile aims to offer customers a seamless wireless experience. With Iristel being the majority shareholder of fellow MVNO Ice Mobile, Sugar’s networks are bolstered by connections to Ice Mobile, who leases from Bell, Telus and Rogers.
It would seem, however, that there is some bad blood between Sugar Mobile and the bigger carriers. Sugar Mobile CEO Samer Bishay believes, in essence, that an agreement with Ice Mobile means that they have the right to use Bell, Telus and Rogers’ networks. This seemingly falls under agreed usage by Ice Mobile of the three larger carriers’ networks. Rogers, however, seemingly has a bit of an issue with seeing extra strain on their network without seeing a dime for it, and have reportedly begun making moves to block Sugar Mobile customers from accessing their network. According to Sugar Mobile, however, this is not a self-preservation move, but an anti-competitive one. They allege that Rogers, if allowed to do this, will set a precedent that the other carriers will follow. If that was indeed to be the case, Sugar Mobile would be left without a cellular network, essentially a death sentence. Sugar has put in a filing with the Canadian Radio Telecommunications Commission.
Bell has taken Rogers’ side in the scuffle, saying that Rogers has no agreement with Sugar Mobile and thus, cut and dry, Sugar Mobile has no right to use Rogers’ network. This seems to indicate that Sugar Mobile’s worst fears are all set to come true, but, for the time being, the CRTC is undecided. The CRTC’s stance is that, at least until a decisive conclusion is reached, Rogers should maintain its agreement with Ice Wireless as-is, which would mean that Sugar Mobile can continue using their networks. Rogers spokesperson Aaron Lazarus commented that Rogers “welcomes all fair competition” and that they have a backup plan to maintain relations and network supply for Ice Wireless in case the current troubles with Sugar Wireless should cause any interference or loss of service for Ice customers. There was no word from Bell on whether they plan a similar blockage at this time.