Building a better cellphone market for Canada


Have you looked at your cell phone bill lately? Three of Canada's smallest wireless carriers are searching for buyers, claiming big-company bias in Canada's telecommunications sector. Analysts fear the communication breakdown will lead to less competition and higher cellphone bills, years after Ottawa promised to encourage fair wireless competition.

Globe and Mail's Report on Business, Rita Trichur

"Our goals are lower prices, better service and more choice for Canadian consumers and businesses." - Jim Prentice

A little over five years ago, Jim Prentice -- then the federal Industry Minister -- set his sights on creating more competition in Canada's wireless sector.

In Canada, the cellphone market is dominated by three players -- Rogers, Bell and Telus. And the idea was to make space for more companies to set up shop in the hopes that more competition would drive down prices and make cellphones more accessible.

For a while, Ottawa's intervention seemed to be working. New companies set up shop ... and cellphone costs started to go down, albeit slowly. But now, the government's strategy appears close to collapse.

This week, three of the most crucial new entrants in the wireless market are up for sale -- they are Wind, Public Mobile and Mobilicity. And many analysts think this could undo the gains that have been made, leaving Canadians spending more money for less choice.

Rita Trichur is the Telecommunications Reporter with the Globe and Mail's Report on Business. She was in Toronto.

Wind Mobile, Simon Lockie

Most Canadians are well-acquainted with the nation's "Big Three" wireless carriers -- Bell, Rogers and Telus -- but our next guest is a representative of what may be considered the "Little Three."

Simon Lockie is the Chief Regulatory Officer of Globalive, the company that runs Wind Mobile. He was in Toronto.

We requested an interview with Federal Industry Minister Christian Paradis but we did not hear back. Bell, Telus and Rogers declined our invitations to speak on today's show.

Panel: Michael Geist / Lindsey Pinto

As smaller players throw in the towel, there's little doubt that Canada's telecommunications sector will see further consolidation ... something that Ottawa says its been trying to avoid. For a look at what can be done, we were joined by two industry watchers.

Michael Geist is Canada Research Chair for Internet and E-Commerce Law at University of Ottawa. That's where we reached him today.

And Lindsey Pinto is the communications manager for the , a group that advocates policies intended to protect Canada's digital future. She was in Vancouver.

This segment was produced by The Current's Sujata Berry and Gord Westmacott.

To add your thoughts to anything you hear on the show, tweet us @thecurrentcbc. Or on Facebook. Or email us from our website. And if you missed the conversation on yesterday's edition of The Current, you can hear it on our podcast.

Other segments from today's show:

Anxiety in America
Checking - In: Listener Response

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