Ottawa Holds Latest Wireless Spectrum Auction

Ottawa’s latest wireless spectrum auction is taking place on Tuesday with a dozen telecommunications companies expected to bid for a share of the 600-megahertz range needed to build next generation 5G networks.

Bidders in the auction include Canada’s big three telecom companies – Bell, Rogers and Telus – along with nine smaller companies. The spectrum is expected to be used over the coming 20 years and help telecom companies build advanced wireless networks that provide greater capacity at faster speeds.

Spectrum is a term used to describe electromagnetic waves that travel within a certain wavelength. Spectrum is the invisible signal that allows wireless service providers to transmit data across long distances to cell phones and other internet-connected devices. The band up for auction on Tuesday is in the 600-megahertz range.

Starting at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, companies involved in the auction will bid for the rights to use seven blocks of spectrum in 16 different areas across the country — 112 different blocks in total. All bids will be anonymous. One company absent from the list of bidders is Montreal-based Cogeco Inc., which says it won't be in the running for the new spectrum but says that it is still interested in expanding its wireless service.

The newest auction has been set up to ensure that incumbents don't gobble up all the spectrum. In this case, three out of the seven spectrum blocks up for grabs in each market have been set aside for new telecommunications companies — meaning Bell, Rogers and Telus can't buy them. That's done to encourage smaller companies to compete with the big three.

Industry analysts say wireless service in Canada is likely to improve following the spectrum auction with fewer coverage dead zones and dropped calls, and the rollout of faster 5G networks. The spectrum auction could also lead to more wireless companies for consumers to choose from. The last spectrum auction held in 2008 led to the birth of companies such as Wind, Public Mobile and Mobilicity.