Industry Canada says 15 participants in wireless spectrum auction

See who's bidding in January

Bell Mobility, Rogers Communications and Quebecor’s Videotron are among the prominent telecom companies that have put down a deposit to take part in Canada’s wireless spectrum auction next January.

Industry Canada says that a total of 15 participants – including Telus Corp. and the parent of Wind Mobile, Globalive Communications – have put down the refundable, 5% deposit for the auction next Jan. 14.

None of the 15 are large foreign companies but the list includes major regional players such as Videotron in Quebec, MTS Inc. in Manitoba and Bragg Communications, which operates EastLink in Atlantic Canada.

Two private equity firms have also on the list, a subsidiary of Birch Hill Equity Partners and Catalyst Capital, both based in Toronto.

Canada’s big three carriers – Rogers, Bell and Telus – have about 25 million customers between them and dominate the market, making it difficult for new players of any size to attract customers.

However, the federal government has said it would like to have at least four wireless competitors in each region of the country.

The 700 megahertz auction of radio waves has been called the equivalent of “beachfront property” by analysts.

These radio waves have the ability to allow cellphone signals to reach into elevators, deep into underground parking lots, traffic tunnels and basements where calls are often dropped and will also help meet consumers’ growing use of smartphones and tablets.

The signal can also travel greater distances and, in rural Canada, will require fewer cellphone towers to provide coverage.

The previous auction in 2008 raised $4.3 billion and brought more competition to the cellphone market with the launch of Wind Mobile, Mobilcity, Public Mobile, Videotron and Eastlink.

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