No need to regulate wireless sector argues telecom expert
September 11, 2012
MONTREAL - The CRTC, which is currently reviewing the level of competition in Canada’s wireless industry, should leave be a nearly 20-year-old policy not requiring formal regulation if Canada is to remain competitive.
This according to Yves Rabeau, associate professor at UQAM, who argues that contrary to other reports, Canada’s wireless industry pricing, technology and speeds are competitive with the rest of the world. His paper entitled “Is the Canadian Wireless Sector Competitive?” was published today by the Montreal Economic Institute (MEI).
"To evaluate the wireless industry properly, there are many variables that need to be taken into account in order to see what's really going on. One must be particularly careful not to generalize from a single piece of data. When you look at the whole picture, Canada is very much within the norm for developed countries with regard to prices, available technologies and network speed,” argues Rabeau.
For example, he cites the 2012 study by Wall Communications, commissioned by the CRTC, which found high usage Canadian rate plans are less expensive than similar American plans on average. It should be noted however that the same study also found that Canada’s rate plans for entry level mobile wireless were the highest of the surveyed countries.
He also contends that according to the OECD, Canada is the 7th least expensive of 34 countries examined when it comes to roaming fees (20 MB in 20 sessions). It’s however not clear what OECD report he is referring to since last year it found that Canada had the highest data roaming fees out of all 34 countries surveyed.
As for the penetration rate of broadband wireless services, Canada places 24th, not far behind France and ahead of Germany and Italy. He adds that when other factors are taken into account it confirms Canada's position in the middle of the pack.
Rabeau also notes that the use of smartphones in Canada has gone from 33% to 45% from March 2011 to December 2011. In order to “preserve this momentum” he contends that Canadians need to maintain the current approach and refrain from imposing new regulatory constraints. He concludes that the wireless market in Canada is in “full expansion and functioning well.”
“Canadians therefore have every reason to want to maintain the approach put in place nearly two decades ago, namely refraining from imposing specific regulation on this important sector of our economy.
Meanwhile the CRTC maintains that they rely on market forces as “long as we are convinced that the interests of consumers will be looked after,” said Leonard Katz, the CRTC’s Acting Chairman. “In this case, we are seeking evidence that our intervention is necessary before considering the development of a national wireless code.”
The CRTC has informed Cartt that “nothing has been decided yet” regarding any decision to regulate the wireless sector.