Rogers leads bids, Bell frozen out in Canadian wireless auction
Rogers Communications Inc. snapped up half the licenses in the Canadian government’s most recent auction of wireless spectrum — while rival BCE Inc. ended up on the sidelines.
The Canadian government raised $3.47 billion in the sale of 104 licenses of 600 MHz spectrum, which it says is best suited for next-generation wireless service and Rogers says is critical for 5G technology. A total of 112 licenses were up for sale, with 43 per cent set aside only for smaller players, the Department of Innovation, Science and Economic Development said Wednesday in a statement announcing the results.
Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains said the auction achieved its goal of ensuring licenses didn’t end up only in the hands of a few players. “More competition in different regions means lower prices for Canadian consumers, and that was this objective of this auction,” he said in a phone interview. Meanwhile, Canada is “still on track” to auction 3,500 MHz spectrum in 2020, Bains said.
The companies were allowed to express interest in a package of licenses, rather than one-by-one — a format meant to eliminate the risk that a company would receive only some of the licenses it needed for a particular strategy.
“Bell leverages each new generation of wireless network technology to drive renewed innovation and productivity growth,” Bell’s Chief Technology Officer Stephen Howe said in a statement. “Bell looks forward to participating in upcoming federal auctions of the mid band 3500 MHz and high band millimetre wave spectrum” that will be required to drive 5G wireless, he said.
A total of nine firms won spectrum, including several smaller players, such as Freedom Mobile and Videotron. The auction had begun last month and ended on April 4. There were 54 rounds of bidding that took place over 18 business days, the government said. Winning bidders have to pay the government in full by May 27.
Canada continues to review whether to ban Huawei Technologies Co. from its 5G systems, Bains said. “We’re still doing our due diligence, we’re still examining the relevant facts and information,” he said. “I want to make sure we do our homework and have an informed decision.”
Analysts say any ban would affect Telus and Bell, more than Rogers. Telus has warned about fallout of a ban.