October 14, 2010 / 11:37 PM / 9 years ago

Telus avoids content, price war; eyes health

* Sees strong position in health, no need to own content

* No rush for another spectrum auction, nor price war

* Expects open content market, will challenge “cartels”

By Alastair Sharp

TORONTO, Oct 14 (Reuters) - Canadian telecommunications operator Telus (T.TO) doubts competitors that own content will hoard their programming and says it is positioning itself to play a major role in invigorating the country’s healthcare industry.

Competition has increased sharply since a 2008 wireless spectrum auction that introduced new players into what was traditionally a closed market for Canadian telecommunications and pushed established players to set themselves apart.

Vancouver-based Telus has been painted as an odd man out in Canada, where few companies still exist as purely content or distribution providers. Rival BCE Inc (BCE.TO) said last month it would pay C$1.3 billion for CTV, Canada’s biggest private broadcaster. [ID:nN10251109]

“I think there will be a competitive content market out there, I think consumers will demand it in this hyper-connected, data-centric, super-empowered consumer world,” Telus Chief Executive Darren Entwistle said on Thursday.

Telus has approached government regulators about the terms of a C$2 billion Shaw Communications (SJRb.TO) deal to buy television operations from Canwest Global CGS.V and would consider doing the same for the BCE deal if it appeared BCE sought “cartel-like” terms on the distribution of content, Entwistle said.

Other rivals such as Rogers (RCIb.TO), which has the most wireless customers in Canada, and Quebecor (QBRa.TO), which launched a provincial wireless service in September, already own media properties.

Shaw plans to launch a wireless service in 2011, and three new entrants are jostling for consumer attention.

E-HEALTH NICHE

Telus’ Entwistle is eager to avoid a pricing war, especially on data, despite admitting the company’s recent introduction of unlimited voice calling in Quebec was a direct response to Quebecor’s lower pricing.

Aggressive discounting on data would quickly devalue the new networks and their higher capacity, he said, adding that a 700 megahertz spectrum auction planned for 2012 need not occur sooner.

Telus and BCE invested heavily in a shared HSPA+ network last year that roughly doubled their previous capacity.

Entwistle was speaking after a Canadian Club of Toronto speech in which he stressed Telus’ contributions to improving Canada’s healthcare system in fields such as telehealth, which enables doctors to treat patients remotely, and improving access to personal health records on digital databases.

“Undeniably, the DNA of a telecom company is the expeditious, secure and effective movement and storage of information across multiple platforms,” in said in the speech.

Entwistle said over three years Telus has invested C$800 million in technology for use in Canada’s healthcare sector, which lags global peers in electronic record-keeping, and expects healthcare spending to reach a quarter of a trillion (Canadian) dollars by 2020.

“I think a significant amount of that spending is going to transpire within the information, communication and technology area and we have built a leadership position in that particular space,” he said. (Editing by Steve Orlofsky)

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