Wireless carrier Wind Mobile expanding across Canada

Startup Wind Mobile plans to end the year expanding its cellular network in Ontario and continue in 2012 by adding service in three more provinces.

Chairman and CEO Anthony Lacavera disclosed the plans Friday as the company announced a three-year deal with Manitoba-based Allstream to provide backhaul IP connectivity for Wind in southwestern Ontario and the Toronto area.

“Allstream’s fibre network is very well suited to our large data requirements” that stem from the unlimited data plans Wind offers, Lacavera said.

After starting wireless service in Welland and St. Catherines in Ontario’s Niagara region last month, Wind will open stores in Guelph and Cambridge, Ont., this month and London, Ont., before Christmas.

It will also continue to expand along Highway 401 east of Toronto this year and next.

Next year will see Wind start service in Nova Scotia (Halifax), Manitoba (Winnipeg) and Saskatchewan (Saskatoon), and expand its Vancouver beachhead to cover the lower B.C. mainland.

As for Alberta, Lacavera said that Wind’s networks have gone as far as they can go in Calgary and Edmonton with the higher band AWS spectrum it has. To go farther outside the suburbs will require the lower band 700 MHz spectrum Industry Canada will auction off next. Without spectrum in the 700 MHz band, Lacavera said, Wind can’t shift its network to the fastest wireless data technology, LTE.

That auction had been expected in 2012, perhaps along with spectrum in the 2500 MHz band, but the government has yet to set the rules and conditions of eligibility for bidders.

As a result, Lacavera’s thinking of mounting a publicity campaign to remind the Harper government of how important it is that Ottawa again set aside spectrum that only new entrants can buy and incumbents with huge finances – like BCE Inc.’s Bell Canada, Rogers Communications Inc. and Telus Communications – cannot.

In making this move, Wind would be joining other carriers in trying to urge Ottawa to hasten its decision. For example, in the summer Rogers set up a Web site telling Canadians that the government shouldn’t limit some carriers from buying 700 MHz spectrum. The site includes a link people can use to send an email to politicians.

The lobbying has been going on in earnest since last December, but quieted down after the election.

“That seems to have fallen off the government’s radar to a certain extent,” Lacavera said, “and we want to make sure it’s front and centre.”

The Harper government has tied the auction rules to a decision on possibly relaxing the rules on foreign ownership of telecommunications carriers. New entrants like Wind want to ensure they’ll be able to raise enough money to buy 700 MHz spectrum, which is expected to be at least as expensive as the AWS spectrum auctioned in 2008. Carriers –including newcomers Wind, Mobilicity, Public Mobile, Quebec cable company Videotron and Halifax-based cableco Eastlink — $4.2 billion then.

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Howard Solomon
Howard Solomon
Currently a freelance writer, I'm the former editor of ITWorldCanada.com and Computing Canada. An IT journalist since 1997, I've written for several of ITWC's sister publications including ITBusiness.ca and Computer Dealer News. Before that I was a staff reporter at the Calgary Herald and the Brampton (Ont.) Daily Times. I can be reached at hsolomon [@] soloreporter.com

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