CRTC to mandate access to facilities-based MVNOs following mobile market review

16 Apr 2021

Following the completion of its mobile market review, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) has announced a number of retail and wholesale measures which it hopes will ‘spur more mobile wireless competition for Canadians’.

Headlining the regulator’s plans is confirmation that it seeks to promote sustainable competition and affordable retail prices for Canadians by mandating access to facilities-based MVNOs. As per the CRTC’s decision, it will require Bell Mobility, Rogers and Telus, as well as SaskTel, to provide access to their mobile wireless networks to regional wireless providers that have invested in network infrastructure and spectrum, albeit under certain conditions. These national providers, and SaskTel, will be required to file proposed terms and conditions for a facilities-based MVNO access service within 90 days. Meanwhile, regional providers using the MVNO service will have to file annual progress updates with the Commission, starting one year after they subscribe to the service. With regards to eligibility, the regulator notes that regional providers will be able to become an MVNO in areas where they have purchased a spectrum licence at the tier 4 level or higher (tiers 3, 2 or 1).

A number of retail measures will complement the CRTC’s wholesale measures, meanwhile, with the regulator confirming that it will require that the country’s national wireless carriers implement a seamless roaming service. Further, with the regulator claiming that national providers have ‘an edge’ with regards to 5G networks when considering factors such as national network coverage and retail market power, it has also confirmed that the wholesale roaming policy will apply to fifth-generation infrastructure. As such, national providers have been directed to file amended tariffs with the CRTC within 90 days of the regulator’s decision. Seamless roaming, meanwhile, must be offered by operators by 15 April 2022.

Lastly, the CRTC said it is taking action to ensure that Canadians – including seniors, low-income earners and those who use their mobile phone sparingly – can benefit from more affordable mobile plans that meet their needs. To that end, Bell, Rogers, Telus and SaskTel will be expected to introduce low-cost and occasional-use plans in most markets by 14 July 2021, while promoting these ‘on their websites, in person and over the phone’. All four providers will be required to file semi-annual reports that include information on what low-cost and occasional-use plans are available, on what brands, how they are promoted, and the uptake of those plans, and these reports will be made available on the CRTC’s website. The first semi-annual report must be filed by 30 September 2021.