Globalive Wireless Management Corp. is preparing to launch its first salvo in the telecom industry’s battle of the bundle.
The privately held company, which operates as Wind Mobile, is laying the groundwork to position itself as a “quad play” that would offer service bundles with wireless, home phone, high-speed Internet and, eventually, a suite of “over-the-top” programming for mobile devices.
Although it will likely be a year before the first Wind-branded bundles are available to consumers, an initial rollout would target Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton, along with Ontario markets including Hamilton, Oakville, Toronto, Oshawa and Ottawa.
Globalive is betting that a bundle strategy would give it more heft as it locks horns with incumbents and regional cable companies in maturing markets. It would also help its Wind Mobile brand distinguish itself from other wireless newcomers that are unable to offer an array of services.
Bundles have long been offered by the big three incumbents: Rogers Communications Inc., BCE Inc. and Telus Corp. Montreal-based Quebecor Inc., meanwhile, has positioned itself as a quadruple threat in Quebec since its Vidéotron Ltée unit launched wireless services in 2010.
Bundles serve as anchor offerings that help cable and phone companies secure market share. Customers are enticed by discounts for buying multiple services, while the prevalence of three-year wireless contracts as part of those deals also serve as deterrent to switching companies.
Consumers come off those contracts in waves, but making headway against more entrenched competitors could prove challenging for Globalive, especially without a full-fledged television offering. Providing Internet protocol TV remains a longer-term goal, Globalive chairman Anthony Lacavera said.
“It is really to position ourselves to compete with the incumbents and the regional cable companies,” Mr. Lacavera said. “To me, it is the only sustainable way to be in this market.”
Wind’s initial bundles, though, would comprise wireless, DSL Internet and home phone service. It would later include over-the-top (OTT) content including international sports like soccer, rugby and boxing and entertainment programming from countries like France, Germany, Italy and Russia.
International news would also be part of the initial focus, making first-generation Canadians a target audience. “We are also developing our own Canadian programming,” Mr. Lacavera said.
Its OTT platform would function like an online service. By using services like Wind Mobile broadband or a data stick, subscribers would be able to access content on a range of mobile devices and, in due course, on Web-enabled flat panel televisions with WiFi capability.
“We are pursuing a variety of content licence discussions,” Mr. Lacavera said. “But we, of course, need both Internet and mobile rights for the platform to work long term as customers will expect seamless transfer/exchange of content between flat panel TV, laptop/tablet and smartphone.”
Such plans, however, hinge on Globalive’s ability to purchase sufficient 700 MHz spectrum in the next federal government auction to build a 4G-LTE (fourth-generation long-term evolution) network that would offer the required mobile speeds.
In the interim, Globalive is taking other steps to execute on its bundle strategy. Earlier this month, it received tentative approval from the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission to register itself as a proposed Competitive Local Exchange Carrier (CLEC).
Carriers apply for CLEC status for a variety of reasons. For instance, a qualified carrier is able to “co-locate” inside an incumbent phone company’s central office and access the wires that run from that switching centre to individual homes and businesses. Having access to those subscriber lines enables a CLEC to provide competitive services such as home phone.
Globalive’s Yak division, which currently offers Internet, home phone and long-distance services, already has CLEC status. As such, its application to retain CLEC status at the holding company level is part of an internal move to integrate its systems and services to offer a Wind-branded bundle.
As part of that ambitious plan, Globalive is also gearing up to make select infrastructure investments, including possible acquisitions of other CLEC players and assets, to bolster its fixed line capabilities.
It is unclear how many of the 56 CLECs registered with the CRTC might be up for sale. Last October, U.S.-based Primus Telecommunications Group Inc., the parent firm of Primus Canada, hired Jefferies & Co. to explore strategic options including a potential sale.
A Primus spokesman did not return a message seeking comment. According to its website, Primus Telecommunications Canada Inc. has more than one million customers.
Globalive, meanwhile, could also pursue strategic partnerships with smaller telephone companies, such as CityWest, Distributel or Novus, to accelerate its ability to offer a bundle.
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