Originally published by Cartt.ca
Author: Ken Kelley
TORONTO – Speaking at TD Securities Media and Telecom Forum in Toronto last week, Shaw Communications’ wireless president Paul McAleese, echoing similar statements made by Bell and Telus earlier, had strong words concerning the potential government-mandated introduction of mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) into the Canadian wireless marketplace.
“I feel it’s an area that’s badly misunderstood by most,” McAleese said. “[MVNOs] will universally affect newer entrants as well as the regional players and non-incumbents than they will the other guys. They won’t have brand. They won’t have distribution. It took [Shaw] about six months of negotiation with Apple to secure iPhone [for Freedom Mobile] and I had a Shaw balance sheet working in my favour.
“I’m on a waiting list – this is now my ninth year – to have a store in the Eaton’s Centre in Toronto as well as Burlington Mall. This is just how things in this industry work. MVNOs are hard, complex and usually fail. What works for them will be more of a disadvantage for the only people driving change in the Canadian market, which are the regional players. What’s happened in the last two years, led by us, has been favourable. It’s driven price down and now, all players recognize they need to bring better value to the Canadian market. MVNO is not how to get it done.”
Despite a rather slow start to the year, a echoed by Canada’s other wireless providers, McAleese insists Shaw is very happy with the performance and state of Freedom Mobile.
“Reflecting back on the last two quarters of the incumbents’ mixed results, I’d say it’s a temporary dynamic. We’re long on the Canadian wireless industry and it’s a bet we have a lot of confidence in. I think we’ll continue to get our disproportionate share of the growth. We’re still a little way out from reporting our results (that’s coming June 27th), but are happy with the ever-increasing performance of the network and that’s coming through in the quantity and quality of wireless subscribers Freedom is bringing in.”
McAleese acknowledges a key part of Freedom’s continued growth includes the company’s geographic expansion throughout Western Canada. In addition to branching out to new markets such as Victoria, B.C. and Lethbridge, Alta., McAleese says Freedom will continue to improve coverage in corridors where they currently offer service, allowing the company to reduce operating expenses relating to wholesale roaming.
“Network expansion is iterative for us over the coming years,” he says. “We’ll continue to have a bias toward the west as that’s where the we have the greatest yield and the greatest relationship to our wireline assets.”
To help maximize the tie-in between the company’s wireline and wireless products, McAleese says the company has been actively putting Freedom product into Shaw stores and will soon be trialing Shaw product in Freedom stores.
Also on the horizon, according to McAleese, is the deployment of a premium wireless brand bearing the Shaw name.
“We talk a lot about the use of the Shaw name as a premium wireless brand. But we have this weird provenance where the parent [company] has been born after the child. In the past, companies have established its premium brand, followed by the flanker brand and then the fighter. Here, we’ve got Freedom and we’re moving back to reclaim Shaw, creating an experience that merits use of the name and has something incremental to what Freedom provides,” he explained.
“Despite early thinking that we’d position Freedom as a flanker brand, it got everything we could throw at the market. My commitment to the leadership team is that we’d go as hard as we could on Freedom. When we deploy Shaw as a wireless brand, which will come at some point in time, it will have to stand on its own merits as premium brand. We’ll have to ensure our network experience is able to deliver.”