No need to regulate Cda wireless sector, which is 'functioning well' -report

MONTREAL – Canada’s wireless services are competitive with global peers both on prices and available technology and any new regulation could hinder advances, a new report suggests.

Canadian wireless providers are on the right track, offering consumers network upgrades, the economic note released Tuesday by the Montreal Economic Institute says. Canadians will continue to pressure companies to provide technology to support smartphones and other high-tech devices, it adds.

“When you look at the whole picture, Canada is very much within the norm for developed countries with regard to prices, available technologies and network speed,” says author Yves Rabeau, associate professor at the Université du Québec à Montréal.

Canadians will continue to pressure companies to provide technology to support smartphones and other high-tech devices, Rabeau says, adding Canada’s wireless market is in “full expansion” and “functioning well.”

“Canadians therefore have every reason to want to maintain the approach put in place nearly two decades ago, namely refraining from imposing specific regulation on this important sector of our economy.”

Rabeau argues that the CRTC, which is reopening the debate into whether to regulate the industry, should not crack down but rather maintain the current system.

In April, the CRTC asked for feedback on whether it needs to create a national wireless code to ensure that cellphone and mobile device customers are protected. It suggested it could develop a national code for wireless services after receiving several applications suggesting one.

The regulator decided in 1994 that it wouldn’t regulate the wireless sector, convinced there was enough competition in the market.

The report stands in contrast to criticisms that Canada’s service providers are not competitive enough and Canadians pay too much compared to telecom users around the world.

But Rabeau cites reports that support his thesis that Canada is keeping pace with international standards.

He cites a 2012 study by Wall Communications that found high usage Canadian rate plans are less expensive than similar American plans on average, as well as an OECD study that found Canada is the seventh least expensive of 34 countries for roaming fees.

The OECD study placed Canada 24th in terms of penetration of broadband services, ahead of Germany and Italy.

“When we use comparable figures to evaluate the prices charged by Canadian wireless companies, we can see that they are fairly close to the average of what we find in other developed countries,” he said.

“We are therefore far from the caricature propagated by certain analysts of a Canada trailing the rest of the world in Internet and wireless access.”

Canada’s major telecom companies — Rogers (TSX:RCI.B), Bell (TSX:BCE) and Telus (TSX:T) — and consumer advocacy groups all support the idea of national standards that would apply to wireless devices, however they don’t all agree on how those rules would work.