Telecom - Commission Letter addressed to the Distribution List

Ottawa, 21 July 2022

Our references:  8740-B38-202104628, 8740-R28-202104636 and 8740-T66-202104884 - 8662-B38-202203537


Distribution list

RE:  Bell Mobility Part 1 application to review and vary Telecom Decision 2022-102


The Commission is in receipt of a Part 1 Application dated 5 July 2022 by Bell Mobility Inc. (Bell) seeking a review and variance of Telecom Decision 2022-102, Updates to national wireless carriers' GSM-based wholesale mobile wireless roaming tariffs to incorporate seamless hand-off and 5G roaming (TD 2022-102).

Bell argued that certain of the Commission's determinations were made without proper notice to Bell or the other national wireless carriers of the case they had to meet and without a sufficient evidentiary basis. Bell submitted that the Commission erred in law and fact by expanding the seamless handoff requirement to in-footprint coverage gaps contrary to Telecom Regulatory Policy 2021-130, Review of mobile wireless services (TRP 2021-130) and without considering its own Essentiality Test or evidence regarding the feasibility of same, technical or otherwise.

Bell further argued that the Commission erred in fact by introducing 7-day/30-day timelines for seamless handoff boundary changes without considering any evidence regarding the feasibility of same, technical or otherwise.

Bell requested that the Commission rescind the direction to: make seamless handoffs available for in-footprint coverage gaps; seek additional evidence from the parties to the ongoing tariff proceedings regarding the appropriate and feasible timelines for seamless handoff boundary change requests and vary its directions accordingly; and allow the national carriers to file amended tariffs reflecting these changes, if desired, in the context of their ongoing tariff application process.

Review and vary criteria

In Telecom Information Bulletin 2011-214, the Commission outlined the criteria it would use to assess review and vary applications filed pursuant to section 62 of the Telecommunications Act. Specifically, the Commission stated that applicants must demonstrate that there is substantial doubt as to the correctness of the original decision, for example due to (i) an error in law or in fact, (ii) a fundamental change in circumstances or facts since the decision, (iii) a failure to consider a basic principle which had been raised in the original proceeding, or (iv) a new principle which has arisen as a result of the decision.

Has Bell demonstrated that there is substantial doubt as to the correctness of TD 2022-102?

Seamless roaming was one of the key policy determinations stemming from TRP 2021-130, and its timely implementation is important for consumers and competition. The Commission must also at times exercise its discretion to ensure efficiency of processes and that the regulatory measures it mandates are not delayed unnecessarily. With these considerations in mind, the Commission has reviewed Bell’s application on its face and does not consider it necessary to review any interventions in order to render a decision on this particular application. Bell has not presented any compelling arguments or evidence to support its review and vary application. Therefore, the Commission is denying the application for the reasons set out below.


The Commission does not consider that TD 2022-102 expanded the scope of TRP 2021-130 regarding the seamless roaming requirement. Further, parties had the full opportunity to broadly comment on the issue of the implementation of seamless roaming, which included the timelines related to seamless handoff boundary changes.

In Telecom Decision 2017-56, Wholesale mobile wireless roaming services – Final terms and conditions (TD 2017-56) the Commission mandated the provision of in-footprint roaming as part of the national wireless carriers’ wholesale roaming service, indicating that there is no solid and stable boundary to a wireless network, and coverage gaps are inherent to the nature of mobile wireless services. The Commission determined that, given the overlapping nature of public mobile networks, in-footprint roaming is important to the quality of roaming services.

In TRP 2021-130, following review of an extensive record, the Commission mandated the provision of seamless roaming. The Commission did not limit seamless roaming to the outer perimeter of a network; rather, it referred to the “borders” and “edges” of networks, which includes borders and edges within a footprint where coverage gaps exist, as well as the outer perimeter. While Bell is of the view that network boundaries only exist at the outermost edge of a network footprint, this is not how networks are designed and deployed. Given the Commission’s previous finding in TD 2017-56, as well as considerations of how networks are designed and deployed, the scope of the seamless roaming requirement was never limited in TRP 2021-130 to the outer perimeter of the network and included in-footprint coverage gaps.

The scope of the Commission’s direction in TRP 2021-130 regarding seamless roaming was also clear from the Commission’s analysis of why the provision of seamless roaming should be mandated. For instance, the Commission stated that seamless roaming was to benefit (i) consumers, since they would no longer experience dropped calls when moving from one network to another; and (ii) competition, since regional wireless carriers would be able to offer their customers a higher quality of service. In its assessment of how mandating the provision of seamless roaming was consistent with the 2019 Policy Direction, Footnote1 the Commission stated, among other things, that the absence of this capability undermines the development throughout Canada of a telecommunications system that serves to safeguard, enrich, and strengthen the social and economic fabric of Canada and its regions, and that the non-ubiquitous availability of this functionality undermines the efficiency and competitiveness of Canadian telecommunications. The Commission clearly outlined the purposes and benefits of seamless roaming in order to address the issue of coverage gaps, without any limitation to just the outer perimeter of a network. Limiting the scope of seamless roaming in the way Bell suggests is inconsistent with the Commission’s analysis regarding the important purposes of seamless roaming and how it advances the 2019 Policy Direction and undermines the benefits outlined.

Finally, a plain reading of the direction to national wireless carriers at paragraph 410 of TRP 2021-130 mandated the provision of seamless roaming, without any qualification or limitation that it would only apply to the outer perimeter of a network.

Given the Commission’s previous finding in TD 2017-56, how networks are designed and deployed, its analysis regarding the purposes and benefits of implementing seamless roaming, and a plain reading of the direction to the national wireless carriers that flowed from the analysis of the decision, it is entirely logical that the mandate to provide seamless roaming in TRP 2021-130 applies to in-footprint roaming. This decision was made after a full consideration of the evidence that was submitted on the record of that proceeding.

Therefore, contrary to Bell’s assertion, the Commission never introduced any new policy or requirements in TD 2022-102 by directing the national wireless carriers to revise their tariffs to clarify that seamless roaming should be available for use by regional wireless carriers where they have in-footprint coverage gaps. Such a requirement was not outside the scope of the proceeding leading to TD 2022-102 and parties also had the full opportunity to comment on the issue of in-footprint roaming in that proceeding, including Bell who had the opportunity to object to any interventions in its reply.

Additionally, Bell has argued that the Commission should have applied the Essentiality Test to in-footprint seamless roaming. However, in-footprint roaming is not a separate service with a separate tariff requiring a separate essentiality analysis. It is a feature of an existing wholesale service, namely wholesale roaming. The Commission already found wholesale roaming to be an essential service in Telecom Regulatory Policy 2015-177. In TRP 2021-130, the Commission made clear that seamless roaming is not a new service but is an additional condition under which the existing mandated wholesale roaming service must be offered. Therefore, given that the Commission never limited seamless roaming to only the outer perimeter of a network, it was not necessary for the Commission to go through the Essentiality Test with respect to in-footprint seamless roaming in TD 2022-102. The Commission already declared it as a condition under which wholesale roaming service must be offered.

Bell has also taken issue with the Commission’s determinations regarding the 30 day timeframe to make network adjustments upon receiving updated cell site information from regional carriers and the 7 day period to provide updated cell site information to regional carriers following a request, arguing that it was not provided with an opportunity to provide comments on these matters. In this regard, both the 30 day and 7 day timeframes fall under the broader issue of seamless roaming implementation, for which there is a significant amount of evidence filed in both the proceedings for TRP 2021-130 and TD 2022-102.

For instance, in TRP 2021-130, based on the record before it, the Commission considered that technical standards and solutions exist today that can be used to implement seamless hand-offs between carriers and, if prioritized, seamless roaming could be implemented within a significantly shorter time frame than proposed by the national wireless carriers. The Commission considered that modification and maintenance activities to implement seamless roaming would be mainly limited to cell sites at network border locations, and that the technical information required to maintain seamless roaming can be exchanged using existing processes and with minimal effort and changes by the national wireless carriers. This would significantly reduce the costs associated with implementation.

In TD 2022-102, based on an extensive record, the Commission determined that one-way seamless hand-off can be operationalized relatively quickly. It directed the national wireless carriers to begin accepting written requests for seamless roaming from regional wireless carriers as of the date of the decision and work in good faith to have the service operational for a requesting regional wireless carrier within 90 days of receiving a request. The Commission indicated that the 90-day deadline may be extended upon mutual agreement between a national wireless carrier and a requesting regional wireless carrier. The 30 day timeframe that Bell has objected to relates to incremental network adjustments on an ongoing basis and the 7 day timeframe relates to providing updated cell site information to regional carriers; both of which, as noted, were broadly addressed by parties when discussing timelines for seamless roaming implementation. In the Commission’s view, if the national wireless carriers were to have seamless roaming as a service offering operational within 90 days, it is reasonable to expect that incremental updates to the service can be implemented within 30 days. Concerning the 7 day window, this is a sufficient amount of time for a large company with significant resources such as Bell to gather and send information about its network, which should be readily available, to another company.

Bell has not put forth any additional convincing evidence to the contrary in its review and vary application, which were generally based on resource constraints, that would lead the Commission to believe that there was substantial doubt as to the correctness of this decision on the timeframe. In this regard, the Commission already broadly considered national wireless carriers’ costs Footnote2 and resource constraints with respect to the implementation of seamless roaming in both TRP 2021-130 and TD 2022-102. Specifically, in TRP 2021-130 the Commission found that none of the cost estimates put forward by the national wireless carriers regarding the implementation of seamless roaming would outweigh the overall benefits to competition and consumers of having seamless roaming in place. The Commission again recognized cost and resource constraints in TD 2022-102 when it mandated the provision of one-way seamless handoff rather than two-way, indicating that it was not persuaded that the effort and resources involved with implementing two-way seamless hand-off, when compared with those involved with implementing one-way seamless hand-off, are proportionate to the problem it would be addressing. In the specific context of the 30-day and 7-day timeframes, the exchange of cell site information with wholesale customers, and the corresponding network adjustments, is a basic function associated with seamless roaming that Bell has had over a year to plan for internally. The Commission is not persuaded by Bell’s resource constraint arguments in its current application given Bell’s size, expertise, financial and human resources, and the potential for adding automated processes to assist with information exchange and cell site updates.

Bell and the other national carriers have had nearly 15 months since TRP 2021-130 was issued to prepare for the implementation of this critical policy that will bring benefits to Canadians. While baseline implementation timeframes were established by the Commission in TD 2022-102, the national wireless carriers and their wholesale customers are encouraged to work together and be flexible regarding these timeframes, and mutually agreed upon extensions may sometimes be warranted.

In light of all of the above, Bell’s application to review and vary TD 2022-102 is denied.

Yours sincerely,

Original signed by

Claude Doucet
Secretary General

Distribution List

Parties to the tariff proceedings;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;

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