Competition in the wireless services market

Retail prices for cellular services are generally going down in Canada. This is a positive sign that wireless service providers are facing increased competition.

However, a small number of providers have a dominant share of the market in certain areas. Nationally, the three dominant providers are Bell, Rogers and Telus except in Saskatchewan, which is dominated by SaskTel. In the three territories, Bell is dominant.

A CRTC review found the prices charged by those four providers and their profits are higher than in other countries. New providers trying to enter the market face barriers in launching services, and consumers face barriers in switching providers. Both of these factors limit competition.

Understanding market power

Market power is a company’s ability to raise prices above the level that would be seen in a more competitive market. Among Canadian providers, we found that Bell, Rogers and Telus have market power in all provinces except Saskatchewan. In that province, SaskTel has market power. We also found that Bell Mobility has market power in Yukon, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut.

Encouraging competition and lower prices

The CRTC is taking action to help competitors establish themselves in the wireless market. This will help promote competition and lower prices for consumers. It will also encourage investment in infrastructure, such as 5G (fifth generation) technology.

We are requiring that Bell, Rogers, Telus and SaskTel give regional competitors wholesale access to their wireless networks. This will help these competitors grow their customer base while they build or invest in their own networks. These competitors can also resell their access to other “virtual” providers, which could further increase competition. (Mobile virtual network operators, also known as MVNOs, are companies that use the networks of other wireless providers.)

Bell, Rogers, Telus and SaskTel will also have to implement seamless roaming between their networks and those of their competitors. This is to reduce dropped calls and interrupted data use when customers move from one network to another, especially during travel. In addition, regional competitors will be able to offer roaming services on the dominant providers’ 5G networks, at rates, terms and conditions set by the CRTC, when they become available.

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