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Wind Mobile CEO Alek Krstajic took over the company‘s top post last March.Galit Rodan/The Globe and Mail

Since Wind Mobile Corp.'s beginnings, the company has enjoyed strong support from Ottawa, as the Conservative government doggedly pursued a telecom policy aimed at encouraging alternatives to the dominant national wireless carriers – Rogers Communications Inc., Telus Corp. and BCE Inc.

With a new government under Justin Trudeau about to take over this week, Wind will be looking for signs that the feds remain committed to helping a fourth wireless provider succeed.

Wind CEO Alek Krstajic, who took over the top post last March, says he is optimistic the Liberal government will take a similar approach to its predecessor, "doing what's right for consumers." While managing relations with Ottawa and fending off a powerful trio of opponents won't be easy, those who have worked with the unassuming telecom executive over the years say he comes to the task well equipped.

"That company [Wind] is in an entrepreneurial state and it is taking on big incumbents, and it's a little bit of David and Goliath and I think Alek likes that," said Michael Sabia, CEO of the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, who was chief executive of BCE in the mid-2000s, when Mr. Krstajic was president of its Bell Mobility division.

"He thinks like an entrepreneur … [and] people with an entrepreneurial outlook were not that common many years ago at Bell," Mr. Sabia said, adding he believes the current culture at his former company has changed. "Alek is one of those guys who turns the telescope around and looks in the other end."

During an interview in his Toronto office, Mr. Krstajic said Wind's biggest priorities right now are putting strong customer-service policies in place, improving its patchy 3G network and upgrading to the next generation of mobile service, known as LTE (long-term evolution).

An initial public offering is possible down the road – "not next year, we'll probably start looking the year after," he said – but only at the right valuation. That depends on getting operations into good shape and seeing strong momentum in the business. Wind had 800,000 customers last year and observers say it is likely closer to one million now, although he has declined to reveal subscriber figures.

Mr. Krstajic said he hopes the government will continue to reserve cellular airwaves for smaller players, and that the telecom regulator will set low rates for the wholesale prices Wind pays the Big Three when its customers roam outside of its own service areas in Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta. (The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission is in the midst of a costing exercise to finalize those rates.)

He has a history of being on the winning side of government decisions. After departing BCE, he launched the startup carrier Public Mobile at the same time that fellow new entrants Mobilicity and Wind Mobile were getting off the ground. By 2013, investors in all three were looking for exits, but securing government approval for a sale to one of the incumbents began to seem impossible.

Yet Mr. Krstajic played a part in two deals many thought couldn't get done: the sale of Public Mobile to Telus two years ago and this summer's complex transaction that saw Rogers buy Mobilicity, as well as spectrum from Shaw Communications Inc., and transfer about half of the airwaves it acquired to Wind.

Peter Thomson, the co-founder of Thomvest Seed Capital Inc., which was one of Public Mobile's major backers, said getting out of the Public Mobile investment at the end "was a tough go."

"He doesn't accept a 'no.' There's always a way with him," added Mr. Thomson, who is also co-chairman of his family's holding company, Woodbridge Co. Ltd., which owns The Globe and Mail.

John Tory, who was Mr. Krstajic's boss at the cable division of Rogers in the late 1990s and early 2000s, noted similar qualities. "He never gave up, right until the last day of any given quarter," said Mr. Tory, now mayor of Toronto. "I think he probably has applied the same approach to every deal he's done."

The federal industry minister who presided over those decisions, James Moore, said he was persuaded that both deals met the twin goals of getting airwaves in the hands of players who would actually put them to use, plus increasing competition.

"It's not the government's aspiration – and it has not been – to be stubborn about spectrum capacity to the point where consumers and Canadian firms suffer," he said in an interview shortly before the federal election.

Mr. Moore said his government succeeded in getting more airwaves into the hands of the industry's three largest players, as well as smaller players such as Quebecor Inc.'s wireless division, Videotron Ltd., Eastlink and Wind.

"From where Wind was, from people looking at them as a company that was going nowhere, to now – being recapitalized, re-energized and with a broad spectrum capacity – I think in the wireless world they're going to be a very fascinating story to watch for the next little while," Mr. Moore said last month.

A spokesman for the Liberal Party declined to comment specifically on telecom policy priorities last week, pointing to the party's platform commitments.

Scotia Capital Inc. analyst Jeff Fan predicted in a research report that a Liberal majority government could be a "fresh and positive change" for the incumbents, but he also noted that the new government will have some time before it has to make major decisions on the wireless industry. An auction for spectrum in the 600-megahertz range, for instance, would have to wait until after the United States concludes its own process on the airwaves – some of which will be repurposed from broadcasting for wireless services – as the countries have agreed to co-ordinate.

"Here's the way I think about it," said Greg MacDonald, telecom analyst with Macquarie Capital Markets. "I did not hear the word 'telecom' mentioned once in the campaign. There's a lot the Liberals want to do, none of which is telecom." He said he doesn't expect the new government to make dramatic changes to policies that have helped support fourth wireless players.

Since taking over as CEO, Mr. Krstajic has been building his team, replacing some former top executives – former CEO Tony Lacavera's business partners in Globalive Capital – with his own long-time confidants. Bob Boron, Wind's new chief regulatory officer, and Bruce Kirby, chief strategy officer and interim chief financial officer, both worked with Mr. Krstajic at Public Mobile.

And in July, he convinced Glen Campbell, a veteran telecom analyst who had earned the respect of the industry over almost two decades at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, to join Wind as chief commercial officer.

"In business today, the word 'team' is so overused as to be verging on the meaningless. But Alek actually does, in the real sense, create a sense of a team of people," Mr. Sabia said. "He engages with you both intellectually and emotionally, and that's how you create a real sense of loyalty with people."

Mr. Krstajic said the company is now in the midst of finalizing a financing contract with a network equipment vendor and plans to announce an agreement within weeks.

Wind doesn't have an immediate need to raise capital, he said, noting that it made about $80-million selling spectrum licences it acquired in the Mobilicity transaction to Manitoba Telecom Services Inc. and SaskTel.

"The business is EBITDA [earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization]-positive, and most of the network expansion will be built with vendor financing and some cash."

The first step will be turning on some of the spectrum acquired from Mobilicity out west, he said, then building the LTE network. "By the end of 2016, beginning of 2017, I think the Wind experience is going to be profoundly different than it is today.

"A lot of our customers stay with us because the value is really compelling and they're price-sensitive. But I don't think there are any customers – even at Rogers, Bell or Telus – who wouldn't say, 'I wish I had a more robust network.'"

While the incumbents report average revenue per user (ARPU) in the range of $60, Wind's is in the "mid 30s, heading to the mid-40s," Mr. Krstajic said. The plan is to remain well below the incumbents, he said, but added, "There's no need for us to be trying to take subscribers in an accelerated fashion by staying in the 30s."

Videotron, which owns spectrum licences outside of Quebec, said recently it would not build its own network outside its home province but that it was open to selling the airwaves or partnering with Wind.

Mr. Krstajic said he wasn't with the company when it was last in active discussions with Videotron, and now, "We'd be open to having a conversation about the spectrum being rolled in, but that wouldn't give them control of the organization," he said.

"I think we could see wanting to buy the spectrum, but I don't think there's a need to go and hurry and do that now," he added. Videotron owns some low-band airwaves, which play an important role in improving in-building service, but Mr. Krstajic also sees a path to similar spectrum through the likely auction of 600-MHz airwaves.

For now, he said, "It's just heads down and getting stuff done. Blocking and tackling and improving the fundamentals."