TORONTO — Canada’s wireless telecom companies need a regulatory environment that will encourage about $26 billion worth of investments in networks over the next seven years, the head of the industry’s trade association said Monday.
Former P.E.I premier Robert Ghiz, who is now CEO of the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association, told a Toronto audience that the industry is pleased with a provision contained in the federal government’s fall mini-budget.
He said Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s increases to the capital cost allowance — which determines how quickly companies get to write down investments in longer-term equipment — will make it easier to invest in wireless networks.
Ghiz said that he believes the industry will be making those investments because they see 5G as essential to meet the needs of their customers over the long term.
“Canadians are going to be demanding that. Businesses are going to be demanding that. And we’re going to need to do that just to be competitive,” Ghiz said at a lunch-time presentation to the Economic Club of Canada.
In addition, Ghiz said, CWTA members — which include Canada’s big and small wireless carriers —will be more able to meet the federal government’s goal of expanding their coverage in rural and remote areas of Canada.
“Quite frankly, it’s very expensive to do that. And I think that this increase in the capital cost allowance will incentivize our members to continue with that build-out,” Ghiz said.
Ghiz also said he’s encouraged by a recent meeting of Canada’s industry development ministers that has the potential to co-ordinate federal, provincial and territorial incentives for telecom investments in underserved areas.
But the industry also wants the Department of Innovation, Science and Economic Development to make 5G wireless spectrum licences available in a “timely fashion.”
“In terms of spectrum, that would be my No. 1 thing,” Ghiz said.
Additionally, Ghiz said he wants to make sure that companies that actually build networks get regulatory support over companies that primarily lease space on existing networks.
Advocates of mobile virtual network operators, or MVNOs, argue that they could provide a lower-cost alternative to Canadians but Canadian regulations tend to favour network operators that own their facilities.
Ghiz also said that there must be a smarter regulatory approach to installation of “small cell” infrastructure that will be required to make full use of fifth-generation advances — especially in urban areas that may require municipal approvals.
“My ask in that area is for a seamless regulatory environment,” Ghiz said.
“The worst thing you could have, regulatory-wise, is five different buckets that you need to go deal with all at the same time. I think that by having one bucket is not going to lower the regulations but just make it more seamless.”.
David Paddon, The Canadian Press