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Airports watch Pearson wireless battle

TORONTO-Airports across North America are closely watching the battle between Canada’s four wireless carriers and Pearson International Airport that has left travelers with reduced levels of cell-phone service.

Industry sources said the disagreement between the Greater Toronto Airport Authority and the four carriers is unprecedented and could determine how other airports in Canada and the United States strike contracts with mobile-phone companies. This week, the airport authority started to block cell-phone reception in the terminals while wireless operators fought back by redirecting nearby transmitters.

The dispute at Pearson centers on how much Bell Mobility, Telus Mobility, Rogers Wireless and Microcell Telecommunications are being asked to pay to upgrade wireless service and for lease fees for keeping signal-boosting equipment on airport premises.

Under an expired five-year contract, each carrier paid $13,000 a year in lease fees and collectively spent more than $5.3 million on infrastructure. The airport authority wants to boost that fee to $65,800 with a significant investment from the carriers to provide wireless coverage to 100 percent of the airport. Its new lease fee is based on 4 percent of the revenues that all four wireless carriers are estimated to collect each year from airport traffic.

The carriers call the terms unreasonable and unacceptable.

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