Canadian regulator starts hearings on boosting cellphone competition

TORONTO (Reuters) – Canada’s telecommunications regulator began hearings on Tuesday on increasing competition and lowering the cost of cellphone plans, possibly by requiring the country’s top three wireless providers grant access to their networks to other companies.

The hearings, held by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) over nine days in Gatineau, Quebec, aim to also examine whether the market is ready for 5G and if it adequately serves Canadians.

The CRTC said it heard from 28,000 Canadians and surveyed over 1,200 directly, the “vast majority” of whom felt Canadian cellphone prices were not as competitive as in other countries, CRTC Chairman and CEO Ian Scott said in opening remarks.

Three companies dominate Canada’s telecoms industry. BCE Inc’s (BCE.TO) Bell unit, Telus Corp (T.TO) and Rogers Communications (RCIb.TO) together control 89.2% of the mobile subscriber market, according to the most recent government data from 2018.

Bell, Rogers and Telus were required to provide wholesale roaming services to competitors at rates set by the CRTC for a minimum of five years starting in 2015.

Scott said the commission’s preliminary position was that this regime should remain in place, subject to certain constraints.

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