Canada’s AWS Spectrum Auction – Will It Encourage Competition?

I recently became aware of the current spectrum auctions in Canada to bring another wireless operator into the domain for what is hoped to create additional competition. I did some quick background research on the auction below there is one important piece of information missing in the article: Which frequency blocks are auctioned and which technology will be used? Looks like the bands auctioned are similar to those of the U.S. AWS auction, i.e. paired spectrum 1700 MHz / 2100 MHz.

O.k., so no WiMAX here since I don’t think there is a profile for such a paring yet. I guess the likeliest technology to use in this band is UMTS and LTE. This band is standardized as band IV in 3GPP. In my opinion it’s going to be difficult to create a lot of competition for incumbent operators with this frequency band mainly because there only seem to be two more operators using this band globally:

•    T-Mobile U.S. for their 3G network
•    A carrier in Japan

Compare that to the hundreds of UMTS networks globally using 2100 MHz band I. I am a bit afraid there won’t be a lot of devices supporting this band, as the market for mobile device vendors such as Nokia is very small.

After many years, Nokia is finally releasing 3G Nseries and Eseries phones for band II and V (AT&T in the U.S., Telus in Canada and Telstra in Australia). I wonder what the chances are that they produce a third version for the AWS band IV of future phones!? Or, what would even better, devices that support all these bands!? Well, at least carriers don’t have to lock devices since they can only be used in their network anyway…

A controversial topic. What do you think?

One thought on “Canada’s AWS Spectrum Auction – Will It Encourage Competition?”

  1. Thank you Martin for raising this issue.

    I am no specialist in the field and haven’t I been reading your posts for a while, I would have missed the very details of this auction. What’s pity in this country (I live in Montreal), is that there is no “serious” publication with deep insight like the one you give here.
    Would be tech-savvy journalists don’t go deep in the issues they talk about.

    On the rumor side, I heard Bell/Telus would transition their networks to WCDMA for 2010. I hope this is not just rumor, otherwise competition is far from being real here in Canada.

    Thank you once more for this very important issue you raised.

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