Monday, June 9, 2008

New Cell Service Providers Coming?

Ok, this is decidedly not municipal business, but it does have the potential to have an impact on the day to day lives of local residents.

If you haven't heard, the federal government is currently in the process of auctioning off wireless spectrum across the country. I won't pretend to be able to give a full explanation of the technical ins and outs of wireless spectrum but in the simplest of terms; this is what enables your cell phone sends & receive calls, text messages or surf the web. The government is opening up more space to send these types of signals.

The spectrum is sectioned off in to different parts and each service provider (for example, Telus, Rogers or Bell) owns a licence to send signals within a certain part of the spectrum. ( As I understand it any one of them would allow a company to run a cell phone network. )

But, to complicate matters more, the licences cover specific geographic areas across the country from coast to coast. So, for example Telus can't just buy one license to send signals all across Canada, they have to buy the licences in each area or city that they want to operate in.

So right now all kinds of companies are bidding to buy space across the country to set up (or expand) cell phone networks.

Clear as mud? For a much better (and more detailed explanation go here ) Ok, lets get to what this might mean locally...

The Grande Prairie area has four different sections of spectrum up for sale: A, D, E & F. Only new companies can bid on the D section - Telus, Rogers and Bell aren't allowed.

As of this afternoon the high bidders on each of the sections are:

Section A - Rogers, $688,000
Section D - 1380057 Alberta Ltd., $211,156
Section E - Bell, $285,000
Section F - Telus, $791,000

The three big guys are there so it doesn't look like much of a change but then there's the limited company. They are actually Shaw Communications out of Calgary and no one has bid against them for that section. the same pattern is also showing up in Dawson Creek:

Section A - Rogers, $270,000
Section D - 1380057 Alberta Ltd., $106,125
Section E - Bell, $117,00
Section F - Telus, $282,000

Even more interesting is who is bidding against the big guys for sections A, E & F in the Grande Prairie area .... it's Bragg Communications who are better known as EastLink from the Maritimes. They have the second high bid on each A, E & F in our city so it looks like they could be trying to expand their business across the country. Other reports say EastLink may just be trying to bid up the big guys in order to keep them from turning their attention to the Maritimes.

There is a long way to go in this process but in the end Grande Prairie residents may have a fourth or even fifth option when choosing a cell service provider. Stay tuned.....

** UPDATE **
As of 9:00am on Wednesday morning Bragg Communications (Eastlink) is beating out the big three in Grande Prairie. They have overtaken Telus, Rogers and Bell in sections A, E & F.

High bids at 9:30am June 11th
Section A - Eastlink, $744,000
Section D - 1380057 Alberta Ltd., $211,156
Section E - Eastlink, $297,000
Section F - Eastlink, $823,000

Track the Grande Prairie & Dawson Creek auctions here
(For GP select licences 349a, 349d, 349f & 349e. For Dawson select licences 358a, 358d, 358f, 358e.)

See the top bids for all sections across the country here

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