AWS roundup: Rivals lock horns at Moose Jaw in final battle of spectrum campaign

16 Jul 2008

The Canadian Advanced Wireless Spectrum (AWS) auction is expected to close very soon, with licences in Moose Jaw attracting the only bids in round number 282 yesterday. The government’s 2GHz frequency auction has raised at least CAD4.22 billion (USD4.21 billion) in high bids, well above official predictions, and will draw to a close once there are two consecutive rounds with no new bids. A 105MHz block of spectrum in the 2GHz band has been bid on in regions across the country, including 40MHz set aside exclusively for new entrants, which the Industry Ministry expects to roll out new mobile networks.

As expected, incumbent national wireless operators Rogers, Bell Mobility and Telus have led the auction in terms of value of high bids. As of yesterday, GSM network operator Rogers had made high bids of CAD981.98 million, with an aggressive strategy of acquiring as many regional 20MHz allocations as possible. Telus bid a total CAD843.31 million to fill in gaps in its CDMA-based network coverage in areas where its users currently roam on fellow CDMA operator Bell Mobility’s network. Bell, which uses roaming via Telus to complete its nationwide footprint, bid CAD733.08 million to gap-fill with no obvious strategic pattern. Two established regional cellcos, Saskatchewan-based SaskTel and Manitoba’s MTS Allstream (bidding as ‘6934242 Canada Ltd’), bid CAD74.13 million and CAD40.77 million respectively to expand their services.

There are several potential new entrants to the wireless sector via the AWS awards, including cable network operators. Montreal-based cableco Videotron bid CAD556.02 million (under the name ‘9193-2962 Quebec Inc’) for 2GHz licences in areas stretching from Toronto to east of Quebec. Western Canadian cableco Shaw Communications bid CAD208.78 million for concessions west of Toronto (under the name ‘1380057 Alberta Ltd’). Bragg Communications, parent of cableco Eastlink (including Persona), bid CAD23.13 million for spectrum in Atlantic Canada.

Other prominent participants in the auction include Globalive Communications, parent of Canadian long-distance reseller Yak Communications, which formed a bidding syndicate with two international telecoms investors, Egyptian-backed Weather Investments and Icelandic firm Novator, and bid CAD442.4 million for frequencies in metropolitan areas only. Also concentrating on large urban markets with total bids of CAD243.2 million is Toronto-based Data & Audio-Visual Enterprises Wireless (DAVE), which boasts investors including Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft.