There are no surprise bidders for two auctions of cellular spectrum the Canadian government plans to hold in the coming months.
The three national carriers – BCE Inc., Telus Corp. and Rogers Communications Inc. – all registered to bid in both auctions, as did regional players Manitoba Telecom Services Inc. and Tbaytel.
Industry Canada published the list of all the companies that applied to take part in two upcoming spectrum auctions on Thursday after financial markets closed.
New entrants Wind Mobile, Videotron Ltd. and Eastlink Wireless also placed refundable deposits to bid in both auctions for the airwaves used to carry wireless signals.
Mobilicity, which scrambled to secure $65-million in new financing last week, was able to make a deposit to bid in the first of the two auctions, which includes a set-aside for operating small players.
However, the company, which has been under creditor protection since September, 2013, did not register to bid in the second auction. Sasktel similarly registered to take part in the first auction, but not the second.
Three rural Internet providers also registered to bid in the second auction: CCI Wireless, SSi Internet Inc. and Xplornet Communications Inc.
"Less than one year ago, nearly 90 per cent of spectrum was held by Canada's largest wireless companies," Industry Minister James Moore said in a statement. "Due to these auctions, by May 2015 we expect new wireless companies to hold over 25 per cent of the total wireless spectrum available."
Thursday's list is not necessarily the final tally of who will participate in the auctions as the federal department will release the names of bidders who qualify under its auction rules on Feb. 13.
The first auction, for airwaves in the AWS-3 (advanced wireless services) frequency band, is set to begin on March 3, when participants must submit sealed bids.
The rules indicate the winner will pay what the second-highest bidder bids and Industry Canada will announce the provisional winners three days later.
Ottawa has structured that auction to benefit small players, reserving 30 megahertz, or 60 per cent, of the total 50 MHz available for companies that are already providing wireless services but have less than 10 per cent of national market share and less than 20 per cent of market share by province.
An auction for the same type of airwaves in the United States concluded last week after raising $44.9-billion (U.S.) in committed bids. However, analysts do not expect the Canadian process to generate similar values, noting that there was no set-aside in the U.S. contest.
A second auction of airwaves in the 2,500 MHz frequency band is scheduled to start April 14. It will follow a more complicated "combinatorial clock" bidding process, which allows bidding on packages of licences and can last for multiple rounds. The government will announce provisional winners within five days of the end of the auction.
There is no set-aside for new entrants in that process although the government has established a cap on the amount of 2,500 MHz spectrum any one player can hold.
Rogers Communications Inc. and BCE Inc. already exceed that cap in some regions, meaning Telus Corp. is poised to be the big beneficiary of that auction. (BCE owns 15 per cent of The Globe and Mail.)
BMO Nesbitt Burns Inc.'s Tim Casey wrote in a Jan. 7 report that while new entrants should secure the set-aside spectrum in the AWS-3 auction for close to or at the opening bid prices, the large national carriers could spend about $1.8-billion (Canadian) on the remaining airwaves. He estimated the 2,500 MHz auction could raise up to $850-million for the federal government.