Root cause of weak competition in the Canadian wireless market
September 2019

The Canadian wireless market is ruled by provincial mobile network duopolies and monopolies. While in some provinces regional operators increasingly challenge the incumbents, at the national level, Canada is a de-facto network duopoly.
  • At first glance the Canadian wireless market appears like any other 4-MNO market where three incumbent operators are challenged by new entrant/s. Look closer though and a very different, non-competitive picture emerges.
  • The Canadian wireless market is not national in scope. It is a fragmented wireless market, a stack of provincial mobile network duopolies and monopolies stitched together by extensive and possibly coordinated roaming and network sharing agreements.
  • Quebec is the only province where 4 operators are present with an independent and substantial mobile network infrastructure.
  • To make matters worse, the three incumbents (Rogers, Bell and Telus) engage in reciprocal network sharing, spectrum cross-licensing, subordination and joint spectrum acquisitions measures that are most likely restrictive and anti-competitive.
  • And to top it all off, CRTC, using a flawed methodology, mandated national roaming mobile data wholesale rates that are excessive and hence ineffective, i.e. they shield the duopolistic network structure from aspiring challenger operators.
  • FACT: Rogers, Bell and Telus while claiming world leading mobile network performance each has less or roughly the same amount of macro cell sites as Finnish operators for serving 6x more population and 30x larger land area.
  • Mandated MVNO access cannot and will not remedy effective competition. Significant structural (bold) remedies are required.
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