Carleton University’s Canadian Media Concentration Research project, directed by Dwayne Winseck of the School of Journalism and Communication, has released a report entitled Wireless in Canada: Recognizing the Problems and Approaching Solutions. The study outlines the state of wireless competition and concentration in Canada in relation to 57 countries worldwide, covering a period of three decades.
“The deep divide between the wireless industry and the government that has erupted over the latter’s attempt to reduce domestic and international roaming charges and foster more competition is the focus of the study,” said Winseck. “The study challenges the industry’s claim that there is no competition problem in Canada and emphasizes the importance of maverick brands that extend the market to those at the lower end of the income scale – women and others who are otherwise neglected by the well-established wireless players.”
The report supports the assertion that mobile wireless markets in Canada are not competitive. It offers a comprehensive, long-term body of evidence that places trends in Canada in an international context. The study shows that Canada shares a similar condition with almost all countries that were studied: high levels of concentration in mobile wireless markets.
The difference between the wireless situation in Canada and elsewhere is the lack of resolve to do anything about this state of affairs said Winseck. The study concludes that Canada’s situation is not promising, although there are some bright spots on the horizon.
“For the time being, the tendency is to deny reality, even when incontrovertible evidence stares observers in the face,” said Winseck. “This, however, is symptomatic of a bigger problem, namely that in Canada the circles involved in discussing wireless issues are exceedingly small and they like to hear the sound of one another’s voices. Their members do not look kindly on those who might rock the tight oligopoly that has ruled the industry from the get-go.”
The study highlights the importance of emerging maverick brands like T-Mobile in the U.S., Hutchison 3G in the U.K., Hot Mobile, Golan Telecom in Israel, and Iliad and Free in France.
Maverick brands have many things in common:
- All have faced aggressive incumbents and they tend to disrupt the status quo, pushing down prices, driving massive growth in contract-free wireless plans and unlocking phones.
- They have relied on the state for a fundamental public resource that underpins the entire mobile wireless setup: spectrum.
Incumbents have fought against new wireless companies, challenging governments in an attempt to preserve their domination of the spectrum. In Canada, three companies currently hold 90 per cent of the spectrum: Rogers (41 per cent), Telus (25 per cent) and Bell (24 per cent).
The study shows that compared to the countries included in the study:
- Wireless markets in Canada, regardless of how they are measured, are remarkably concentrated;
- Canadians are first in terms of time the spent on the Internet, GBs of data uploaded and downloaded, smartphone data sent and received etc.;
- Canada is highly ranked when it comes to capital investment in its wireline infrastructure, but lags in wireless investment.
“Whether or not people get the media, wireless and Internet capabilities they need to live, love and thrive in the 21st century depends on making the right choices now,” said Winseck. “Those choices are staring Canadians in the face. How we act, and how our government moves ahead, will set the baseline for how mobile wireless media in this country will evolve for the next two decades – the length of the licences being awarded in the upcoming 700 MHz spectrum auction – and probably for a lot longer than that.”
An executive summary of this study can be found at: http://www.cmcrp.org/2013/11/18/executive-summary-the-cmcr-projects-wireless-report-mobile-wireless-in-canada-recognizing-the-problems-and-approaching-solutions/
The full report can be viewed at: http://www.cmcrp.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/Mobile-Wireless-in-Canada2.pdf
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