Rogers Communications Inc. RCI-B-T and Quebecor Inc.’s QBR-B-T Videotron Ltd. are heading to arbitration after failing to reach an agreement regarding the rates for Videotron to access Rogers’ wireless network.
In 2021, after a lengthy review, Canada’s telecom regulator ruled that Rogers, BCE Inc. BCE-T, Telus Corp. T-T and SaskTel must sell wireless network access to eligible regional competitors who commit to building out their own infrastructure.
The rates are to be negotiated between the parties, with final-offer arbitration available if they are unable to come to an agreement.
In this case, representatives of Rogers and Quebecor said in a letter to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission that after numerous discussions, they have been unable to agree on commercial rates.
“We therefore have concluded that [final offer arbitration] before the Commission is necessary,” they wrote.
The letter was dated April 6, just three days after Quebecor acquired Freedom Mobile, Canada’s fourth-largest wireless carrier, which was being divested as part of Rogers’ $20-billion takeover of Shaw Communications Inc. SJR-B-T
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As part of that deal, Rogers and Quebecor entered into a number of commercial agreements granting Videotron access to various infrastructure owned by Rogers. However, the two companies have apparently not been able to agree on the terms relating to the CRTC’s mobile virtual network operator, or MVNO, regime.
The CRTC granted the companies’ request for final offer arbitration on April 27 and asked them to submit their final offers by May 12. Rogers has requested a two-week extension.
A spokesperson for Rogers declined to comment. A representative of Quebecor could not immediately be reached.
Quebecor is also looking to enter into MVNO agreements with BCE and Telus. Quebecor’s chief executive, Pierre Karl Péladeau, has accused BCE and Telus of using “delay tactics” to slow down the process and stifle competition.
BCE has said Mr. Péladeau’s claims are “without merit,” while Telus has said that CRTC policies prohibit the company from commenting on continuing negotiations.
In January, Quebecor asked the CRTC to mediate its negotiations with BCE, but the regulator denied the request after determining that the companies had not made a “good faith effort” to initiate discussions.
The commission requested that Videotron and BCE negotiate for at least 30 days, meeting twice a week, and then update the CRTC on the state of those talks.
“Following a 30-day period of serious negotiations, if the parties have negotiated in good faith and an impasse persists, a new [final offer arbitration] application may be filed,” Claude Doucet, general secretary for the CRTC, wrote on Feb. 17.
The CRTC recently finalized the rules governing the MVNO framework. Companies have 90 days to negotiate access agreements. The regulator has vowed to ensure that deals are struck quickly, and has said that it expects regional competitors to start selling wireless services in their new markets soon after those agreements are in place.
Under the MVNO rules, regional competitors can access the larger carriers’ networks for a period of seven years in areas where they own spectrum. (Spectrum refers to airwaves used to transmit wireless signals.) The seven-year period is intended to allow the competitors to start selling services in new markets while they build out their own infrastructure in those areas.