* Shaw plans to sell prized spectrum to industry giant
* Canada industry dominated by three major players
* Government wants to boost competition, cut prices
By David Ljunggren
OTTAWA, April 15 Canada's industry minister
signaled on Monday he is unhappy with Shaw Communications Inc's
plans to sell wireless spectrum to rival Rogers
Communications Inc, a move that would add heft to
Rogers, already one of three dominant players in the market.
In 2008, Shaw, based in Western Canada, bought some of the
spectrum the Conservative government had set aside for new
entrants in the mobile telephony market as part of a plan to
encourage more competition for the big three: Rogers, BCE Inc's
Bell Canada and Telus Corp.
"The intent of the policy was not to have this set-aside
spectrum to end (up) in the hands of incumbents," Industry
Minister Christian Paradis told reporters on a conference call
when asked about Shaw's plans.
Consumer and advocacy groups want Paradis to block the sale.
All spectrum license transfers must be approved by the
federal industry ministry, giving Ottawa an effective veto.
In March, the government announced public consultations on
the transfer of spectrum licenses, in particular on whether such
proposed sales would affect the efficiency and competitiveness
of the Canadian telecommunications market.
Once the consultation period is over, the Conservatives will
announce new criteria for license transfers.
Canada's wireless market has some of the highest charges in
the developed world. Rogers, Bell Canada and Telus together
command a 90 percent share.
Despite the government's moves to boost competition the new
entrants are struggling in a market of 34.5 million people
stretched across the world's second largest country.
Newcomers include Wind Mobile, a carrier in the process of
being acquired by Amsterdam-based VimpelCom Ltd, as well
as closely held Mobilicity and Public Mobile.
Speculation is rife that some or all of the young companies
might look to be bought by either the domestic big three players
or by other deep-pocketed investors willing to enter the market.
"I acknowledge that this is a fierce sector in terms of
competition ... consolidation of course might occur," Paradis
"But I think that we are on the right track in terms of
policy. Of course it's a work in progress ... I still remain
confident that we will achieve our goal (of increased
In March, Paradis said the government would start the
process of auctioning more prime wireless spectrum on Nov. 19
and announced other steps designed to stimulate competition and
reduce high roaming charges.
Last year, he reduced foreign investment restrictions on
small carriers that have a market share of 10 percent or less.