Verizon not entering Canada's wireless market after all

Verizon Communications Inc. CEO Lowell McAdam says the U.S. company is not planning to enter the Canadian wireless telecom market.

Top executive calls speculation that company was entering Canada 'way overblown'

Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam, seen here in May 2010, has shot down speculation that his company was about to enter the Canadian wireless telecommunications market. (Jessica Rinaldi/Reuters)

The head of Verizon Communications Inc. says the U.S. company is not planning to enter the Canadian wireless telecom market.

"Verizon is not going to Canada," company CEO Lowell McAdam said in an interview with the Bloomberg news service.

McAdam said speculation that his company was about to wade into the Canadian market was "way overblown."

He made the comments following the announcement of a deal that will see Verizon pay $130 billion US to buy the 45 per cent stake in Verizon Wireless that is currently held by British cellphone company Vodafone.

A Verizon spokesman confirmed McAdam's comments to CBC, saying the CEO said at this point in time the company doesn't plan to enter the Canadian wireless market.

Talk of a possible Verizon entry into Canada set off a heated war of words involving the existing three major players in the Canadian wireless market — Rogers Communications Inc., BCE Inc. and Telus Corp. — against the federal government.

The companies launched a public relations campaign in which they argued that government wireless policy would give an unfair advantage to a foreign company that wanted to enter Canada. They said a foreign company would be allowed to bid on two blocks of wireless spectrum in an upcoming auction of lucrative 700 megahertz bandwith, while domestic companies would only be allowed to bid on one block each.

"This has never been about Verizon coming into Canada, or not, it's always been about fair access to spectrum," said Telus executive vice-president Josh Blair.

"Spectrum is the lifeblood of our industry, and without fair access to it, that's going to potentially, permanently disadvantage Canadian companies," he said.

The Conservative government, which has stated that it wants to see a fourth national telecom player, had argued that the entry of Verizon would benefit consumers through increased competition.

A spokeswoman for Industry Minister James Moore said Verizon's decision not to enter Canada won't change the way the spectrum auction is conducted.

"We will continue to move forward with the auction as planned,"  Jessica Fletcher said

Speculation that Verizon was considering a bid in next year's wireless spectrum auction or a possible acquisition of small Canadian players, such as Wind Mobile or Mobilicity, also drew criticism from unions that represent workers at the Big 3 telecom companies.

Jerry Dias, the national president of newly formed union Unifor, applauded the decision of Verizon not to enter the Canadian market, saying resistance from unions, business and privacy advocates was likely responsible.

"I don't think Verizon or the government anticipated this level of opposition to the possible spectrum bid, but we've been able to send a clear message," he said in a release.


With files from The Canadian Press