Thursday, April 24, 2014

Roaming rates probed

Canada’s big wireless companies are coming under scrutiny for how much they charge their small competitors such as Wind Mobile, Mobilicity, Videotron, and Eastlink to use their networks.
The federal telecom regulator wants to know if big players are putting these small players at an unfair disadvantage with the wholesale roaming rates they charge.

Some of the larger companies are charging—or want to charge—the small carriers “significantly” higher wholesale roaming rates than they charge wireless companies in the United States, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission said yesterday.
Chairman Jean-Pierre Blais said the CRTC has a “duty” to make sure there isn’t any “unjust discrimination,” and added the CRTC has the authority to rectify the situation.
As a result, the regulator will look at wholsale rates charged by Rogers, Bell, and Telus, as well as established regional players like Bell Aliant, SaskTel, and Manitoba Telephone System.
The small carriers rely on the larger telecom companies to offer their local customers national cellphone overage, Blais said in an interview from Gatineau, Que.
“It is to make sure that people have a fair chance to compete for subscribers in the marketplace,” he explained.
“You never know where your business and residential customers may be travelling in Canada.”
The wholesale rates the small carriers are charged can impact the rates they charge their customers, Blais added.
Canada’s telecom industry has been in the cross-hairs of the federal government, which wants more competition and more choice for consumers.
The end result could be more regulation for the industry.
A Rogers spokeswoman defended the company’s practices in an e-mail.
“All of our roaming agreements with domestic carriers are based on negotiated, mutually-agreed upon rates,” Patricia Trott said.
“There is an arbitration process in place that all carriers are entitled to use should they have any concerns, but those carriers have chosen not to avail themselves of that process,” she added.
Wind Mobile, meanwhile, welcomed the CRTC’s move.
“This is a very positive step for Wind and it is clear the CRTC has now seen the serious anti-competitive behaviour from Bell, Rogers, and Telus and intends to do something about it,” CEO Anthony Lacavera said in an e-mail.
“Roaming is a very significant issue for Wind and while much-needed regulation at the wholesale level is on the horizon, some interim relief from these practices is required,” he added.

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