Telecom Companies Battle Ottawa Over Proposal To Cut Wireless Charges

Canada’s big telecommunications companies are preparing for a major fight in Ottawa.

The big three telecom companies are intensifying their lobbying efforts against the new minority Liberal government as it plans to fulfill election pledges to cut cellphone costs by 25%.

BCE Inc. (Bell), Rogers Communications Inc. and Telus Corp., control 90% of the market in Canada and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said during the October election campaign that he could force providers to take action and reduce costs to consumers by as much as 25%.

Some telecommunications executives warn that such government action could hamper expensive network rollouts, including for 5G wireless. The industry is particularly unhappy about the Liberals’ pledge to allow more access for Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNO) - which lease wireless capacity at wholesale prices and resell it at reduced retail prices - saying they do not help build the infrastructure needed to ensure service.

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), which regulates the telecommunications industry, is probing whether it should order the major players to offer more access to MNVOs, which complain they are effectively being shut out of the market.

While Canadian monthly wireless plans have been gradually falling, they still cost more than in the United States or Australia, which has roughly the same population as Canada.