Canada’s top telcos must share network with smaller firms, agree to wholesale rates: CRTC

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Canada’s top wireless firms will now be required to accept requests for access to their networks from smaller companies and also negotiate on wholesale prices, the country’s telecom regulator said on Wednesday, as it looks to lower the cost of cellphone plans and increase competition.

For years, Canadian consumers have complained about high cellular bills, which rank among the steepest in the world, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government has threatened to take action if the providers failed to cut bills by 25%.

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The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) has since been under pressure to increase competition and lower prices where three companies – BCE Inc’s BCE.TO Bell unit, Telus Corp T.TO and Rogers Communications RCIb.TO control over 80% of the mobile subscriber market.

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Antitrust regulators for this reason have stalled the $16 billion acquisition of Shaw Communications SJRb.TO by Rogers, on the grounds that the deal would further reduce competition.

In April last year, CRTC ruled that large telecoms firms must offer wholesale wireless access to so-called Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs), smaller outfits that can then resell the capacity at reduced retail prices and pass on the savings to consumers, but with several stipulations that were seen as wins for big companies.

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In Wednesday’s ruling, CRTC said the service will be mandated for seven years, which will give the regional providers time to build and expand their wireless networks.

In addition, prices for MVNO access must be negotiated between the providers.

Bell, Telus and Rogers did not immediately respond to Reuters requests for comment.

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— Reporting by Eva Mathews in Bengaluru

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