Incumbent Beats Competitor. Again.

A major challenge facing Canada’s “new” mobile companies is this: how can they extend network coverage across Canada to increase the utility of their product offerings? One way they address the challenge involves entering roaming agreements with incumbent carriers. As Wind Mobile is finding out, Rogers Communications is willing to both do the least possible to enable roaming and fight at the CRTC to maintain this minimal standard.

Specifically, from The Telecom Blog we find that

…Wind Mobile complained again to the CRTC stating that Rogers continues to discriminate against its roaming customers. Though RIM managed to muster support from the Consumer Association of Canada, the CRTC has ruled again in favor of Rogers. The upstart carrier claims that currently there’s no way for Wind subscribers to continue a live call when they hop onto Rogers network. The call is dropped and the subscribers are forced to redial.

Though Wind has been lobbying hard to get seamless roaming onto the Rogers network, the CRTC declined the request stating that “in view of its determination that RCP had not granted itself a preference, it would be inappropriate to deal with the issue of mandating seamless call transition.”

Needless to say, these are the actions of an incumbent doing what it can to limit the appeal of competitors’ products. The reason that Rogers wasn’t found to have granted itself a preference was because Rogers hadn’t rejigged their network in response to the roaming agreement: Rogers simply made the decision not to make technical improvements that would enable seamless live call transitions.

Much of the issue around transitions, and other telecom-related battles between incumbents and competitors in Canada, stem from the CRTC’s basic position that the Canadian telecommunications market should be directed by facilities-based competition. In other words, the position is (generally stated!) that competitors are recognized as temporarily needing access to incumbent networks when they first incorporate, but that the same competitors should build out their own infrastructure over time.

This CRTC’s preferred mode of competition is incredibly expensive and is arguably redundant; structural separation is postulated as one means of addressing the issue, as are spectrum sharing, and improved infrastructure sharing agreements that are driven by federal institutions’ fiats. Regardless of the particular solution you favour – if you see a problem as existing, in the first place! – something should be done to better enable new competitors in Canada. The CRTC theoretically attempts to promote market competition so that services are less costly for Canadians while simultaneously ensuring that offered services are of high quality and are efficient. Where something so basic as call transitions isn’t addressed, one has to wonder whether some federal institution shouldn’t be a lot more involved than they are in enabling competition in Canada’s mobile marketplace.

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