CRTC to take closer look at wholesale roaming rates, terms and conditions in Canada

OTTAWA, Dec. 12, 2013 /CNW/ - The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) today announced that it will take a closer look at wholesale wireless roaming arrangements in Canada. The first step is a proceeding launched today to examine whether wireless service providers are placing their Canadian competitors at an unfair competitive disadvantage.

Based on information obtained by the CRTC, some of the large providers are charging, or proposing to charge, their smaller Canadian competitors significantly higher wholesale roaming rates than those charged to U.S.-based wireless companies. Wholesale rates are different from, but can impact, the retail rates companies charge to their customers.

"We are concerned that some wireless companies may be making it unfairly difficult for Canadian providers that do not operate a national network to compete in the marketplace," said Jean-Pierre Blais, Chairman of the CRTC. "We have the authority to ensure that companies do not give themselves an unfair competitive advantage. This includes charging wholesale wireless roaming rates that are unjustly discriminatory or by insisting on unduly restrictive terms and conditions. If we find that this is happening in the market, we will act to rectify the situation."

The CRTC is seeking comments on this situation, as well as possible solutions should it find that large wireless service providers are placing their Canadian competitors at an unfair competitive disadvantage. Comments must be submitted by January 29, 2014.

Earlier this year, the CRTC began a fact-finding exercise regarding the rates, terms and conditions associated with wholesale wireless roaming arrangements in Canada. In August 2013, the CRTC asked wireless service providers to provide information, such as their roaming arrangements with other Canadian and U.S.-based wireless companies. In October 2013, the CRTC created a Wireless Task Force to further analyze this data.

Canadian wireless companies provide services to their customers on their own networks within specific geographic areas. Smaller wireless providers must rely on the networks of other companies when their customers travel outside their network coverage area. This is commonly referred to as roaming. These arrangements enable Canadians to continue using their wireless devices to make calls, send text messages and use data when travelling.

Canadian wholesale wireless market

In early 2014, the CRTC will launch a second proceeding to further examine the state of the mobile wireless services market, the sustainability of competition in the Canadian wireless market, and what regulatory measures may be required if the CRTC were  to find the market is not sufficiently competitive.

"We are equally concerned that the current wholesale arrangements may be having a negative impact on the competitiveness of the Canadian wireless market and, ultimately, on the consumer experience," said Jean-Pierre Blais. "Canadians are increasingly relying on their mobile devices for all of their communication needs, and we want to make sure that they have access to a choice of innovative and affordable services provided by reliable networks."

The details of this proceeding will be made public in early 2014.

Telecom Notice of Consultation CRTC 2013-685

SOURCE: Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission

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