15 applicants for 700MHz licences; all Canadian

24 Sep 2013

Industry Canada has published the list of applicants for the 700MHz 4G mobile broadband spectrum licence auction scheduled for January 2014. Among the 15 all-Canadian applicants who submitted a refundable deposit, the eight most predictable were: Rogers Communications, Telus Communications and Bell Mobility (the three national incumbents, and the only three expected to bid on a nationwide basis); provincial telcos MTS and SaskTel, both expected to bid in their home regions only; cablecos Videotron and Eastlink (registered as Bragg Communications), both aiming to build on their existing mobile presence; and cellco Wind Mobile (registered as Globalive Wireless Management Corp), which had also previously confirmed it would be bidding.

Also on the applicants list is TBayTel (a local full-service telecoms operator in Thunder Bay, Ontario), as is Novus Wireless (which TeleGeography notes was a winner in the 2008 auction of 1700MHz ‘I Band’/1900MHz ‘G-band’ spectrum sold alongside Canada’s 2100MHz AWS spectrum); Novus is associated with Novus Entertainment, a provider of fibre internet, TV and digital phone services in Vancouver and surrounding areas of British Columbia.

Another applicant, BH Wave Acquisition Corporation, is owned by Birch Hill Equity Partners, which was previously linked to potential takeover bids for Canadian cellcos including Wind Mobile.

Communications equipment vendor Vecima Networks, which also placed a refundable deposit, is the parent of YourLink, which currently provides fixed-wireless internet access via a network of 250 towers across the province of Saskatchewan.

An applicant listed as 1770129 Alberta Inc is the 100% owner of Corridor Communication Inc, which holds a minority share in Forty Mile Gas Co-op – a rural high speed internet provider in the province of Alberta, under the CCI Wireless brand.

Also on the list is Feenix Wireless, a 100%-owned company of Mobilicity chairman John Bitove, whose Obelysk investment firm owns a majority voting share and minority equity share in the financially stricken cellco, while rounding out the 15 applicants is private equity firm Catalyst Capital Group, which owns roughly 30% of Mobilicity’s senior secured notes, and therefore stands to acquire a significant slice of the cellco via debt restructuring.

Public Mobile – and/or its owners – is perhaps surprisingly missing from the list of applicants, despite its new parents Thomvest Seed Capital (backed by Peter Thomson, chairman of Woodbridge Co which has a 55% stake in news group Thomson Reuters) and Cartesian Capital indicating at the time of takeover (June 2013) that they aimed to fund a 4G licence bid while looking at a merger with one or more of Public’s rivals, particularly Wind Mobile and Mobilicity. However, TeleGeography adds that a new round of consolidation/takeover talks involving cellcos and private equity firms is likely to start after the January 4G auction as the smaller players look to create a stronger challenge to Rogers, Bell and Telus.

Publication of the list of provisionally qualified bidders will be on 22 October 2013, ahead of a deadline for receipt of the remaining 95% of pre-auction financial deposits by 12:00 noon on 29 October. The publication of the final list of qualified bidders will be on 8 November. Auction bidding opens on 14 January.