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CRTC outlines rules for virtual wireless companies — but they’ll still need their own networks

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The CRTC has issued new regulations governing cellular networks known as Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs). The rule says the telecommunications regulator hopes to bring greater competition in the wireless market.

A true MVNO is a cellular network that does not have its own infrastructure or spectrum, but simply resells consumers wholesale access to an existing network, which is usually much cheaper.

Owned by Canadian actor and entrepreneur Ryan Reynolds, Mint Mobile is an example of a US MVNO that sells plans for unlimited data, calling and texting in the US for $30 a month. The company doesn’t own cell towers or spectrum rights, it just buys “space” in other companies’ cell phone networks and resells access to it to consumers.

Last year, Canada’s telecommunications regulator established a policy that sets ground rules for MVNOs wishing to do business in Canada. Under these new rules, the CRTC requires MVNOs to have their own networks somewhere in Canada to piggyback on existing networks in other countries, so companies like Mint I am still unable to do business in Canada.

Specifically, they must already have their own spectrum licenses and have plans to build networks in the regions they want to piggyback on within seven years. If you can meet that criteria, you are eligible, but only existing companies can meet it.

On Wednesday, the regulator announced more ground rules for semi-MVNOs wishing to set up stores. The telecommunications regulator did not change any of the basic frameworks it established in 2021, but gave more details about what it wants to achieve today.

According to the CRTC, major incumbents “must start accepting requests for access to their networks and negotiate with local wireless providers to agree on wholesale MVNO rates.”

Regulators say these negotiations will help ensure that qualified MVNOs have access to 5G networks where applicable, and that calls on the networks are not dropped as customers move between coverage zones. says.

The regulator also said it rejected several clauses that made MVNOs more restrictive or difficult for regional players to use, citing regional providers to resell wholesale access to other MVNOs. It is said to block movement that limits the movement.

CRTC Chair Ian Scott said in a press release: “This will help provide millions of Canadians with a more affordable option while increasing competition. I look forward to reaching an agreement.”

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According to consumer advocacy group OpenMedia, regulators are stepping up policies that were wrong in the first place.

“They were 100% committed to a facility-based or physical infrastructure-based competitive model that didn’t work for Canada,” said campaign director Matt Hatfield. “We’ve been trying to do that for over a decade and it just doesn’t happen.”

The new rules appear to have opened the door for MVNOs, but “the reality is that these kinds of competitors are shut out of almost every situation,” he said.

Anthony Lacavera, co-founder of Wind Mobile, which was founded in 2009, says the big problem in Canada’s telecommunications industry is the lack of a purely wireless company. Incumbents like Bell and Rogers started with landlines and cable respectively, then moved to wireless.

“We’re the only OECD country that doesn’t have wireless-only competitors,” he told CBC News. which is why the network is not as reliable as in other OECD countries.

He doesn’t believe MVNOs are the answer, as a good wireless network requires investment, but ultimately believes the problem is a distraction from the real problem.

“The ability to enable resellers really just shuffles Titanic deckchairs. We need to focus on the big issues,” he said. need to be corrected.”

Consumers who feel pressured

Cell phone user Karima-Catherine Goundiam is one of those who believes the current system needs to be fixed. As a tech entrepreneur, she travels frequently internationally for her job, but she is always skeptical of the cell phone service contract terms compared to what she is used to in Canada. She says she’s in shock.

She is not particularly familiar with the new rules of MVNOs, but based on her experience, she is skeptical that MVNOs will help much.

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That’s generally because the Canadian wireless market “creates apathy on the part of the customer. Basically, you just throw your hand in the air and say ‘whatever’ because they’re all the same.” “Because I know,” she said.

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