The very first post that I wrote for the front page of Howard Forums was about Ting, a Toronto-based Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) that offers wholesale wireless service from Sprint to its customers in the USA, but was (and is) unable to do anything similar for its home base in Canada.
MVNOs seem to be very popular with American forum members. There are Canadian MVNOs, too—PC Mobile, Petro Canada Mobility and SpeakOut Wireless are the notable examples I can think of off the top of my head. I myself have only had first-hand experience with SpeakOut; in my opinion it’s best suited for emergencies or occasional use.
And the MVNO situation in this country isn’t going to get any better, even after the CRTC’s announcement this week that it will regulate domestic roaming rates—this according to Dr. Michael Geist, whose recent post on this subject merits a closer look.
Here’s the killer quote:
The CRTC stopped well short of facilitating an MVNO market in Canada. While it removed some barriers, it did not mandate MVNO access, claiming:
“If the Commission were to mandate GSM-based wholesale MVNO access provided by the national wireless carriers, this permanent network access would likely discourage continued investment by wireless carriers, because they could rely on this access rather than investing in their own mobile wireless network infrastructure.”
It is hard to believe that the Commission still believes claims that MVNO access would discourage ongoing investment by wireless carriers, who emphasize each quarter to business analysts the scope of their investment and breadth of their spectrum holdings.
What the CRTC is really doing is saying it knows best what competition should look like: a fourth wireless player that offers economically viable if somewhat inferior national service. That vision falls well short of a vibrant, competitive market with as many players and as many different services as possible and makes it likely that the Canadians will have marginally more choice, but still fall well short of the situation in other countries where consumers experience greater choice, more business models, and better pricing.
If the thriving US MVNO market and our limited options here in Canada are any indication, I think Dr. Geist got this pretty much bang-on.