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Canada sees 4 bidders drop out of 700 MHz auction pool

Canada’s plan to increase competition across its wireless market through the upcoming auction of 700 MHz spectrum assets appears to be sputtering as a handful of potential bidders have dropped out of the process.

According to a Reuters report, four entities that had previously stated plans to participate in the Jan. 14 auction have backed out of the event. The four include private equity group Catalyst Capital Group, BH Wave Acquisition Group, Vecima and 1770129 Alberta. Industry Canada had initially announced in September that 15 entities would participate in the auction.

The moves leave a total of 11 companies currently set to participate in the auction, including established wireless giants Rogers Communications, Bell Mobility and Telus Communications, as well as a handful of smaller, regional players including Saskatchewan Telecommunications, Globalive Wireless, MTS and Videotron. Other qualified bidders include Bragg Communications, Feenix Wireless, Novus Wireless and TBayTel.

The Canadian government had originally planned on auctioning off 700 MHz spectrum licenses on Nov. 19, but earlier this year postponed the auction citing attempts to attract new entrants into the space. That attempt nearly landed the attention of U.S.-based telecom giant Verizon Communications, which dabbled with the idea of entering the Canadian space through the acquisition of beleaguered carriers. However, Verizon backed out of those plans following its announced plans to acquire the remaining stake in Verizon Wireless from Vodafone Group for $130 billion.

Canada’s wireless market is still dominated by Rogers, Bell Canada and Telus Mobility, with the two latter operators working through a network partnership that sees Bell Canada manage operations in the Eastern part of the country and Telus Mobility managing services in the Western part of Canada. The government previously attempted to infuse competition into the space through the auction of 1.7/2.1 GHz spectrum in 2008, though that has seen limited success as only a handful of carriers have entered the space, while others have sold off or attempted to sell off their spectrum holdings to established carriers.

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