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Feds announce another wireless spectrum auction for 2015

Ottawa has announced a new wireless spectrum auction for next year, as the Conservative government continues to cast itself as the defender of Canadians’ cellphone bills.

Industry Minister James Moore, who was in Vancouver to announce details of the sale on Friday, said the government will auction off licences for the 2500 megahertz spectrum in April 2015.

The auction is in addition to another sell off for the 700 megahertz spectrum, which is set to begin next week, and it follows a year in which the government announced several other policies designed to foster wireless competition and bring prices down.

“This auction is an opportunity for companies, both large and small, to acquire spectrum and to offer Canadians, especially outside urban centres, better and faster wireless services,” said Moore.

Moore said the 2500-megahertz spectrum is ideal for next-generation technology that will cover faster connections.

The auction will come with caps that will ensure the spectrum is divided up among four or more carriers and licences will cover smaller geographic areas, a move designed to allow smaller rural providers to participate.

The licences will also include strict conditions to ensure carriers must put them to use quickly or lose them.

Moore downplayed any notion that his government’s heavy focus on wireless policy has put it at odds with Canada’s three largest carriers.

“There is this perception that there’s a battle between the government of Canada and the Big 3,” he said.

“We’re heartened by the fact that Rogers, Telus and Bell are aspiring to get 700 megahertz and they want even more spectrum. This is all very good news.”

The federal government has repeatedly said its goal is to ensure there is a fourth national player in every region of the country to give consumers more choice. Small startups, such as Wind Mobile and the indebted Mobilicity, have struggled to attract customers.

Moore said consumers in regions with competition from fourth carriers have benefited. He pointed to areas like Atlantic Canada, Quebec and Manitoba, which each have regional carriers in addition to the so-called Big 3.

“In those regions of the country where we do have aggressive fourth players, we do see lower prices,” he said.

“What we’re trying to aspire to do is to get that competition spurred in all parts of the country.”