Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

New rules for selling wireless licences

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OTTAWA -- The Conservative government has unveiled new guidelines for companies that want to sell their wireless spectrum licences.

Any company that wants to transfer its wireless spectrum licence will now have to ask Industry Canada to do a review within 15 days of signing an agreement that could lead to a prospective change.

The department will then give the proposed deal a thumbs-up or down.

The new policy framework comes after the Harper government blocked a plan by Telus (TSX:T) to buy struggling wireless upstart Mobilicity (TSX:T) in a deal worth $380 million.

The government says it will prohibit spectrum transfers that would limit competition in the Canadian wireless market.

Industry Minister Christian Paradis said the government will use all tools at its disposal to ensure there are at least four wireless competitors in every region of Canada. The government has long sought to increase competition in the wireless sector that has been dominated by Bell (TSX:BCE), Rogers (TSX:RCI.B) and Telus.

Bell was not pleased with the new guidelines, saying they are unfair to Canadian companies.

"Industry Canada needs to focus on a massive loophole in the spectrum auction framework," BCE spokesman Mark Langton said.

"As it stands, major international wireless companies like Verizon can take advantage of rules intended for small startups and unfairly buy twice as much spectrum as Canadian companies at a fraction of the price."

"Bell's always ready to compete, but it's hard to see a big U.S. company getting favours over Canadian operators," Langton said.

Spectrum is airwaves over which cellphone networks operate.

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 29, 2013 B10

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