CTS 2019: CWTA’s Ghiz says Canada’s wireless future hinges on pro-investment policies

Originally published by Cartt.ca

TORONTO – Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association (CWTA) president and CEO Robert Ghiz used his keynote Tuesday at the Canadian Telecom Summit to drive home a singular message to Canadian policy makers: any changes to Canadian wireless policy must continue to feature facilities-based investments as the bedrock.

Canadian networks are world-leading, he noted in his speech.”Not only are Canada’s mobile wireless networks ranked 2nd in the world in terms of download speeds, they are 152% faster than the global average, and 91% faster than the United States. And while speed is important, consistency of speed is equally important. It is little comfort to have networks that are fast at 2 a.m., but are dramatically slower during normal business hours,” he said.

This performance and reliability has come at a cost – massive investment by Canadian carriers. Canada’s facilities-based wireless carriers, added Ghiz, have invested over $50 billion so far, including $3 billion in 2018 alone on wireless infrastructure, an increase of 7.7% compared to 2017. This doesn’t include the $17 billion carriers have spent in spectrum auctions.

This level of investment will jump as 5G moves into the mainstream. “Accenture estimates that the capex requirement for the initial roll-out of 5G will be $26 billion between 2020 and 2026,” said Ghiz. “This does not include the cost of acquiring spectrum.” However, that level of investment will only remain if the federal government and the CRTC remain committed to the principle of facilities-based competition and don’t give in to the lure of mandating resellers in a misguided, short-term attempt at bringing down retail prices.

“Deviating from policies that prefer facilities-based competition, policies that have enabled world-class wireless quality and coverage, as well as a significant downward trend in prices, will interrupt our positive momentum,” he said, noting that introducing policies that force the national wireless providers to sell access to their networks would also cripple regional providers.

Ghiz added that a policy change that “strangles investment” will also have a major impact on Canadians who live in rural areas.

“At a time when governments at all levels are seeking ways they can help address the urban/rural digital divide, it is astounding to me that we would consider implementing policies that will only make the problem worse,” he continued. “Who will tell Canadians who do not yet have connectivity, or that are waiting for network upgrades, that their needs were sacrificed for the hope that a change in policy might deliver marginally lower prices to Canadians in major urban centres?”

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