No U.S. wireless carriers to bid for Canadian airwaves -analyst

Thu Sep 19, 2013 7:56pm IST

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By Alastair Sharp

TORONTO, Sept 19 (Reuters) - None of the four major U.S. wireless operators applied to take part in a Canadian spectrum auction before a deadline this week, a Scotia Capital telecom analyst said, citing sources at Verizon Communications Inc (VZ.N), AT&T Inc (T.N), Deutsche Telekom's (DTEGn.DE) T-Mobile USA and Sprint (S.N).

The companies decided not to enter Canada due to a likely unattractive return on investment, regulatory risks on both sides of the border, and a focus on the much larger U.S. market, analyst Jeff Fan wrote in a note published late on Wednesday.

The absence of a deep-pocketed U.S. carrier in the auction, due to start in January, would help Canada's dominant carriers - BCE Inc's (BCE.TO) Bell, Rogers Communications Inc (RCIb.TO), and Telus Corp (T.TO) - maintain their combined grip on 90 percent of the market.

The government's Industry Canada will publish a list of bidders for the 700 megahertz spectrum next Monday, following Wednesday's deadline to submit an application and a relatively cheap and refundable deposit.

The 700 MHz airwaves are highly valued for their ability to penetrate buildings and travel long distances, and are being used in the United States to build high-speed networks.

Ottawa is hoping to spark more competition in the wireless industry via the auction, by blocking Bell, Telus and Rogers from bidding on more than one frequency block in each region.

Shares in Rogers and Telus both jumped more than 1 percent in early Toronto Stock Exchange trade, while Bell was up 0.3 percent.

Shares in the big three wireless providers surged earlier this month after Verizon disclosed that it no longer plans a foray into Canada. [ID:nL2N0GZ0OV]

Telus Corp said on Tuesday it plans to bid in the auction, while BCE Inc's chief executive told an investor conference earlier this month that the company would be bidding. Rogers declined to comment ahead of the official release of applicants.

Wind Mobile, an upstart challenger backed by Europe-focused Vimpelcom Ltd (VIP.O), said late on Monday that is intends to participate.

Telenor ASA (TEL.OL), a large minority shareholder in Vimpelcom, had no comment on whether it would bid. A source with knowledge of the company's plans says they are not interested.

Privately-held Public Mobile, which along with Wind entered the market after a 2008 auction, declined to comment. Privately-held cable company Eastlink, which also bought airwaves in 2008 but didn't launch service in its Maritimes footprint until this year, declined to comment on a Cartt.ca report it will bid.

Regional operator Manitoba Telecom Services Inc (MBT.TO) said earlier this month it does not plan to bid outside of its home province. [ID:nL2N0H612L]

Quebec-focused Quebecor (QBRb.TO) did not respond to requests for comment.

(Editing by Jeffrey Hodgson and Nick Zieminski)

((alastair.sharp@reuters.com)(+1 416 941 8118)(Reuters Messaging: alastair.sharp.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net)) Keywords: CANADA TELECOMS/

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