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A round of applause for Industry Canada, which announced Thursday that it is intervening on behalf of smaller wireless carriers (and Canadians who hate the big telcos with an unyielding passion). The new rules will, among other things, make sure the big boys allow smaller carriers' customers to use their towers when there's no other tower available. No more dropped calls? Not exactly. No more wireless carrier angst? Not even close.
So, sure, customers of smaller players like Wind Mobile will now be able to make calls when, say, only a Rogers tower is available and the two firms have worked out a deal in good faith. It's indicative of the scale of Industry Canada's tinkering, however, that these rules don't prevent "hard hand-offs," or as you may know them, dropped calls: moving from Wind's network to Rogers' while a call is in progress could still result in your call being dumped.
Rogers, Bell, Telus and SaskTel opposed a rule that would prevent hard hand-offs, calling them "technically complex, not always feasible and costly to implement." That may be, but it doesn't hurt that several of the big firms have touted a low number of dropped calls as a competitive advantage over smaller carriers in their ads.
Dropped calls are, unfortunately, here to stay. A reasonable person might ask why Industry Canada bothers with such minuscule interventions, since there is still no competition for the big three from equals or near-equals – just hobbled small companies trying to carve out a space on an uneven playing field. It's an old song, but it's got a tune that sticks in your head: When will we see real competition in the wireless industry?