Saturday, June 7, 2008

Lively spectrum auction turns regional

If it was more wireless competition the government was looking for, it was more wireless competition it got — at least so far.

The government's sale of public airwaves, which is likely to result in new cellphone carriers, ended its second week with more than $3.1 billion raised so far in what is turning out to be a hotly contested auction.

In November, the government ruled that cellphone prices were too high in Canada, so it reserved about 40 per cent of additional spectrum being auctioned for new cellphone carriers. Incumbent providers Rogers Communications Inc., Bell Canada Inc. and Telus Corp. are unable to bid on this block of spectrum, but the remaining 60 per cent is open to all comers.

After 34 rounds of bidding, Quebecor Inc. led all potential new carriers with high bids on 27 of the 292 licences up for auction. The Montreal-based company seemed to be concentrating most of its bidding in Quebec, but also on Friday held the high bid on the one Toronto licence reserved for newcomers. Bidding is expected to continue for weeks.

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