CRTC proposal on virtual networks would harm investment opportunities: Competition Bureau

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The Competition Bureau says regional facilities-based carriers such as Freedom Mobile, Videotron and Eastlink would be weakened if they have to face a new type of virtual rival that only needs to rent network capacity.

The bureau made its assessment at the opening of nine days of public hearings being held in Gatineau, Que., by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission.

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The CRTC is proposing to make it easier for mobile virtual network operators, also known as MVNOs, to become viable businesses that can put pressure on Canada’s three national carriers — Rogers, Bell and Telus.

The CRTC has taken the preliminary view that MVNOs should get mandatory access to the networks of the Big Three mobile carriers — which operate under their own names and flanker brands such as Fido, Virgin and Koodo.

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However, the Competition Bureau says MVNOs could erode competition from the regional wireless carriers that have to invest in their own networks _ especially at a time when fifth-generation technology is being rolled out.

The competition watchdog’s experts told CRTC commissioners that there’s clear evidence the Big Three have lowered their wireless prices significantly in areas where a regional competitors has at least 5.5 per cent of the market.

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