Category Archives: telecommunications

Videotron has at least 6 wireless options

VideotronAfter months of will-they, won’t-they, Videotron has indeed pulled the trigger on acquiring wireless spectrum licenses for much of the rest of Canada. The Montreal-based cable company has emerged as perhaps the biggest winner of the 700 MHz auction, with licenses in its home province of Quebec but also Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia. And so begins a new game of will-they, won’t-they.

As several observers note in my analysis of what the auction results mean for consumers, there’s no guarantee that Videotron’s parent Quebecor will in fact roll out service. As the company itself said in a release on Wednesday night, getting the licenses means it has “several options.” What are those possibilities? There are at least five, plus one I’m really hoping for:

Do nothing: At $233 million, Quebecor got the licenses at a relative steal thanks to having few competitors in the auction. With new carriers Mobilicity in creditor protection and Wind pulling out at the last minute because of a lack of funding from its Russia-based backer Vimpelcom, the path was clear for the Montreal company to swoop in and grab licenses on the cheap. Its only potential competitors were regional wireless providers such as Eastlink, MTS and Sasktel, plus Vancouver-based internet provider Novus and Feenix, a Toronto-based operation started by entrepreneur Mobilicity founder John Bitove. However, none of the regional players had shown much interest in expanding out of their home territories while both Novus and Feenix were relative minnows compared to deep-pocketed Quebecor. Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted by on February 20, 2014 in bell, rogers, telecommunications, telus, videotron


2013 blog in review: it was (almost) all telecom

Thanks for the clicks, Becel.

Thanks for the clicks, Becel.

What a year it was. 2013 was a year of ups and downs, both in the news world and for myself personally. Over the past few weeks, I’ve covered off some of the highlights and low-lights of the past year’s news events. Closer to home, my wife and I lost a beloved pet, but on the plus side we bought a house and I finally finished off my second book. Here’s hoping that 2014 has more upsides than downsides for everyone out there.

This coming year will also mark the five-year anniversary of this blog, which I launched back in 2009 as a promotional vehicle for my first book. Along the way, it morphed from into this site, with the focus also shifting dramatically when I dove into the freelance world three years ago. At first, most of my posts were devoted to developments in the three industries covered off in the book – military, fast food and pornography – but that ultimately expanded to all technology.

The early days seem funny now as a result, with my first few year-end summaries tending to turn up porn-related posts as the most-read of the year. Taking a look at this year’s most-read list is a good snapshot of just how distant those days are, with an entirely different topic – telecommunications – now overwhelmingly dominant.

10. How cellphone negotiations go in Canada (Jan. 14)

This one was a tongue-in-cheek conversation between a fictional customer looking to buy an iPhone and a wireless carrier service agent, but it was really a thinly veiled attempt to dissemble numerous industry talking points. Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted by on January 1, 2014 in blogging, media, roku, telecommunications


The biggest Canadian tech stories of 2013

Industry Minister James Moore came out swinging this year.

Industry Minister James Moore came out swinging this year.

It was a fun year to watch technology news in Canada. While the events weren’t as wide-reaching or influential as some of the headline-makers in the United States, there was plenty to get excited about – or that was cringe-worthy. Here are the top Canadian tech stories of the past year.

Shopify’s ascent

It’s not every day that Canada sees a genuinely good technology news story, so Shopify’s success is certainly noteworthy. With the e-commerce software company recently announcing a $100 million financing deal with the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System, it’s now effectively worth $1 billion. As the Globe and Mail reports, only 39 tech firms have reached that level since 2003 – including Facebook and Twitter.

And in typical Canadian fashion, few Canadians have even heard of Shopify. Given its new lofty status, that is probably going to change in 2014. Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted by on December 18, 2013 in Blackberry, government, media, privacy, telecommunications


Why Conservatives aren’t winning in telecom

winningIf there was one takeaway from this week’s International Institute of Communications’ annual conference in Ottawa, it was the strong after-taste of winning. It doesn’t have much to do with Charlie Sheen, but rather explains the Conservative government’s problems with the telecommunications industry. Simply put, one of them is winning and the other is not. It’s pretty clear to anyone watching which is which.

The point was driven home at IIC again and again. In my own facts-versus-myths panel, Scotia Capital and Genuity analysts Jeff Fan and Dvai Ghose respectively noted the failures of the government’s policy objectives from the 2008 wireless spectrum auction. With Public Mobile sold to Telus, Mobilicity on the brink of failure and Wind, well, twisting in the wind, it’s obvious that the government’s biggest attempt to inject more wireless competition into Canada hasn’t worked out very well. Or at least, it worked temporarily, but it’s increasingly looking like it’s going to sputter out.

Fan also pointed to how the CRTC’s move to effectively ban three-year wireless contracts has caused monthly prices to go up. That was actually a no-brainer that was easy to see coming – several observers (myself included) predicted big price increases just as soon as the regulator announced its plan back in June.

Bell Media president Kevin Crull spent a good portion of his IIC address talking about how the government’s current desire to implement pick-and-pay TV channels may not necessarily lower costs for consumers. “As we move forward in responding to consumers, we need to be clear that there is an inherent risk. When buying less, the unit cost is going to be higher and overall savings, if any, may be small,” he said.

The best summary of all of this was a conversation I had at the conference with Celia Sankar, head of the non-profit Diversity Canada Foundation. Sankar told me all about the class-action lawsuit she has launched against Bell over its prepaid wireless plans. She’s arguing that prepaid balances shouldn’t expire in Ontario because they qualify as gift cards. (It’s illegal for gift cards to have expiry dates in the province.)

Given how these things go, I asked her if she was prepared for the eventuality that, should Bell lose the case and be forced to sack the expiration, the company might simply jack up prepaid rates in return. Tellingly, she didn’t really have an answer for that.

When critics attack the government for rightly trying to lower consumers’ telecom bills, there’s an almost contemptuous undercurrent to their comments. When they gleefully point out that the Conservatives’ efforts to lower bills haven’t worked, there’s also a sub-text that suggests they never will. The kicker is, such observers are right because they understand Sheen-ian winning.

Telecom companies have certain revenue streams that they’re used to. In fact, they have a responsibility to shareholders to continually grow them. So, a scatter-shot approach by the government that takes aim at one issue at a time – whether it’s three-year contracts, roaming, pick-and-pay channels – isn’t going to work in the long run, because the companies will inevitably just recoup the lost revenue in other ways. Nail them here and they’ll get you back there.

Without some sort of dramatic, large-scale action – the complete removal of foreign-ownership restrictions, structural separation or even the formation of a crown corporation are just a few options – the companies are going to keep on winning. The government, despite its best intentions, is destined to keep on losing.


Posted by on November 22, 2013 in bell, crtc, government, telecommunications


Taking those old telecom myths out for a spin

IIC panels: not quite Stallone arm wrestling, but close.

IIC panels: not quite a Stallone arm-wrestling movie, but close.

As the old saying goes, when you’ve been to one telecom conference, you’ve been to them all.

Well, okay, maybe that’s not really an old saying (I just made it up), but the sentiment holds. They usually are very much the same: economists quoting irrelevant numbers, idealogues spouting ideologies and company executives lobbying their various positions.

The organizers of the International Institute of Communications’ annual conference in Ottawa, however, deserve much credit for trying to spice things up by bringing in some outsiders. I thoroughly enjoyed a morning panel session on Monday about industry competitiveness that featured some sparring between University of Calgary economist Jeffrey Church and Carleton journalism professor Dwayne Winseck. At one point, Winseck suggested that Church had called him a “commie and a baby killer,” so yeah, it was entertaining. Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on November 19, 2013 in telecommunications


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