Small Canadian wireless players hang up on industry group

TORONTO Wed Apr 10, 2013 11:41am EDT

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TORONTO (Reuters) - The three companies that entered Canada's wireless market after a 2008 auction of airwaves have pulled out of the industry's main trade group, complaining that it is biased in favor of established competitors that dominate the sector.

The trio - Vimpelcom Ltd's VIP.N Wind Mobile, and privately held Public Mobile and Mobilicity - said on Wednesday that as a result of their withdrawal, the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association (CWTA) could no longer claim to speak on behalf of the entire industry.

"There seems to be a blatant disregard of the new entrants in favor of acting in the best interests of the Big Three carriers, and it is unacceptable," Gary Wong, Mobilicity's director of legal affairs, said in the joint statement.

The CWTA called the withdrawal "unfortunate and surprising" and rejected the claim of bias.

While the group acknowledged what it said were inevitable disagreements among its members, it pointed to a range of initiatives it helped shape, including anti-spam regulation, number portability, a phone recycling program, and stolen phone database.

Canada's wireless sector is dominated by BCE Inc's (BCE.TO) Bell, Rogers Communications Inc (RCIb.TO) and Telus Corp (T.TO), which together command a 90 percent share.

The three upstart companies were able to buy spectrum after the federal government made some of it off-limits to the dominant players in a 2008 auction in an attempt to increase competition.

While the aggressive pricing of the new entrants has forced the established operators to work harder to retain customers, the smaller players have had limited success in building their own customer bases.

As another auction of valuable spectrum nears, speculation has increased that at least one of the new entrants might sell itself, with Vimpelcom saying it would consider various options for Wind, including divestment.

(Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)

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