30 hopefuls for wireless auction, headed by ‘mystery company’

17 Mar 2008

Industry Canada on Friday published a list of 30 companies that have applied to bid in the government’s upcoming Advanced Wireless Services (AWS) spectrum auction scheduled for 27 May, in which 105MHz of frequencies in the 2GHz band are up for grabs. Nationwide cellular operators Rogers, Bell and Telus are amongst those planning to bid in order to expand and improve existing services, but the new allocations will include 40MHz bandwidth specifically reserved for newcomers on the national stage. Auction rules state that start-up licensees must build their own infrastructure, but are also entitled to piggyback on the three incumbents’ networks at market rates for ten years. Industry Canada will release a shortlist of eligible bidders on 31 March.

CBC News reported that an unknown company, Niagara Networks, placed the largest deposit of CAD881 million (USD890 million), seeking 6,510 regional spectrum concessions – or bid points – to build a comprehensive national mobile network. Douglas Evashkow, president of Niagara Networks, refused to identify the firm’s financial backers, telling CBC that: ‘It’s tied into confidentiality agreements…We have significant financial backing behind us.’ Analysts speculated that the source of the funding is likely to be a major US or European mobile network operator. The second largest deposit of CAD534 million was placed by Rogers, covering 4,030 bid points, and the third-biggest application came from cableco Shaw Communications, for 3,076 bid points with a deposit of CAD400 million. Manitoban incumbent full-service telecoms provider MTS (in a consortium with Canada Pension Plan Investment Board and Blackstone Group) placed the fourth largest deposit of CAD340 million, and the fifth most ambitious filing was from Quebecor, parent of cableco Videotron (which already provides MVNO GSM services), valued at CAD317 million. In sixth place was Globalive, parent of long-distance reseller Yak Communications, which is partnering two international telecoms investment groups, Egyptian-backed Weather Investments and Icelandic firm Novator, to compete for 1,892 bid points requiring a CAD235 million deposit. A lesser known company, Toronto-based Data & Audio-Visual Enterprises Wireless (‘DAVE’) registered a deposit of CAD106 million for 972 bid points. Telus and Bell also applied for 1,860 bid points (CAD230 million) and 1,500 bid points (CAD180 million), respectively. A much smaller deposit (CAD80,000) came from SSI Micro, which wants to build a network in Yukon and North West Territories.