Rogers bought no new spectrum, latest wireless auction results reveal

Written By doni icha on Jumat, 06 Maret 2015 | 22.39

The federal government unveiled results of the latest spectrum auction, which saw many cellular service carriers bid for buy chunks of Canada's digital airwaves but didn't include one of the biggest, as Rogers didn't buy.

Industry Minister James Moore announced the results at 8:30 a.m. ET today in Toronto.

Earlier this week, 10 companies were on a list of qualified bidders vying for the right to use blocks of wireless spectrum — the wireless infrastructure over which cellular networks transmit voice and data to customers.

As it turned out, only five companies picked up new spectrum.

Ottawa raised more than $2.1 billion in the auction, which saw many companies increase their capacity to transmit voice and data over their wireless networks. The auction was tailored in favour of smaller players, and that seemed to have an impact on who bought how much and where. Wind Mobile picked up new blocks in Alberta, Ontario and B.C. for the minimum bid price of $56 million, increasing their spectrum allocation by 180 per cent in the process.

Eastlink expanded by 77 per cent in its home base of Atlantic Canada, while Videotron did the same, expanding its reach by 65 per cent in Ontario and Quebec.

Mobilicity, another small wireless company that has been in financial trouble in recent years, didn't buy any new spectrum.

Telus and Bell also picked up new spectrum, expanding their stakes by 16 and four per cent respectively. 

Rogers, one of Canada's three biggest wireless carriers, didn't buy any. Moore noted, however, that Rogers still owns one third of all the spectrum capacity in Canada, even after being shut out, or choosing not to partake, in this auction.

"Rogers got beachfront property in the 700 MHz auction," Moore said, referring to the previous auction of wireless airwaves last year. "They will continue to compete and do well."

At least one analyst agreed with that notion.

"While this comes as a surprise, given Rogers' rich spectrum position post the 700 MHz auction in 2014 and relatively high debt leverage, perhaps it is understandable," Canaccord analyst Dvai Ghose said in a note to clients.

"We believe that the wireless incumbents remain in good shape despite government policies," he said, adding that he doesn't expect the spectrum to have any immediate impact on Canadians wireless bills, or wireless service, since it is unlikely to be rolled out within two or three years anyway.

Rogers didn't immediately reply to a request for comment from CBC News on whether they opted not to buy any new spectrum or were merely outbid.


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