Canada Postpones 3.5GHz Spectrum Auction Due To COVID-19


By Juan Pedro Tomás

The government of Canada has announced a six-month postponement of its 3.5 GHz spectrum auction process, to allow the telecommunications industry to maintain its focus on providing essential services to Canadians during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The government confirmed that the auction is now scheduled to start on June 15, 2021.

“Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the government has engaged with Canada’s telecom service providers to ensure they can continue to provide the services that we all rely on to stay connected,” Innovation, Science, and Economic Development Minister Navdeep Bains said. “Canada’s telecommunications service providers are doing their part in this difficult time, providing essential services to keep Canadians connected as we face the realities of the COVID-19 pandemic together. A number of providers have raised concerns, and the government is implementing measures to address them. The government will continue to reach out to telecommunications service providers—and to the private sector more broadly—to understand their challenges and support them to ensure that Canadians have access to high-quality networks and broad coverage at low prices.”

He added that Canada will continue to monitor COVID-19’s impact on the telecom industry and that the government would announce further changes to the timelines for spectrum auctions if necessary.

In April last year, the Canadian government raised C$3.47 billion (US$2.6 billion) in the sale of 104 licenses of 600 MHz spectrum.

Rogers Communications dominated the auction, winning 52 licenses in every province and territory for US$1.725 billion.

Telus spent US$931 million to secure 12 licenses, while Bell, Canada’s largest telecommunications provider, did not win a single license. Bell said it decided not to buy any 600 MHz spectrum because it already has enough in other bands.

Rogers Communications has recently begun rolling out 5G network in select cities around Canada using equipment from Ericsson. Rogers’ initial 5G cities are Vancouver, Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal. The telco said that it will eventually expand into over 20 more markets by the end of 2020.

In a previous conference call with investors, Rogers’ CEO Joe Natale said that the company expects to start deploying spectrum-sharing technology later this year. The executive said that the deployment of this technology will allow Rogers to use its current 4G spectrum for the provision of 5G.

Rival operator Telus recently selected European vendors Ericsson and Nokia to support the deployment of its 5G network, expected to be launched later this year.

Bell Canada started the construction of its 5G network this year, using equipment from Finnish vendor Nokia. The carrier also selected Ericsson 5G Radio Access Network (RAN) technology to support its nationwide 5G mobile and fixed wireless access deployment.

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