Late last year, all the way in October 2013, Canadian Spectrum Policy Research offered some educated guesses on how the auction might unfold as part of our review of the Canadian 700 MHz Auction process. As the auction is now complete, we thought we’d take a look at how we did.
While we didn’t offer a specific auction breakdown, two broad scenarios were explored.
‘Prime’ Paired Blocks
Bell & TELUS = C1 / C2 Blocks
Rogers = C Block
Regional Carriers = B
Rogers = D/E Blocks (Unpaired)
Unclaimed = A Block (Paired)
‘Prime’ Paired Blocks
Bell & TELUS = C1 / C2 Block
Rogers = B Block
Regional Carriers = C
Unclaimed = D/E Blocks (Unpaired)
Rogers = A Block (Paired)
Outcome & Evaluation
Out of the two scenarios, the second was the closer of the two. Rogers secured the A & B blocks, and will be able to deploy LTE on 10MHz contiguous sub-1GHz channels across most of Canada. Rogers will indeed be able to access into AT&T’s device ecosystem, now that the US carrier is supporting Band 12.
In addition, Bell secured the C2 block throughout most of country, including all their key service areas. This should allow them to access similar devices as Verizon, though the interoperability is not as straightforward owing to differences in US and Canadian Band Plans.
In the end, Bell and TELUS secured the D & E blocks throughout the country. In Scenario 2, we suggested that it would be possible that no one would buy the unpaired spectrum. With the rapid growth in demand for mobile data, primarily due to video, and so soon after carriers throughout the world publicly worried about a “spectrum crunch”, it appears that Canadian carriers wanted to make sure they were able to secure all available spectrum, even if there is not yet a clear device ecosystem. If a device ecosystem does quickly materialize around LTE multicasting, securing both blocks of unpaired spectrum may allow Bell and TELUS a 10 MHz contiguous sub-1GHz channel at a low cost vis-à-vis Rogers paired blocks. Further, this appears to support Bell’s recent Mobile TV initiatives.
The one prediction that was incorrect was regional carriers securing the other lower paired block and Bell and TELUS focusing on C1 & C2. As companies are unable to discuss their auction behaviour for some months yet, we can only speculate reasons for this. One possible explanation is that it may have been a strategic decision to prevent Rogers from partnering with regional carriers to provide a contiguous 15 MHz channel and taking full advantage of Band 12 to deliver a potentially superior lower band offering.
Bell is currently able to offer a wide band for LTE in many parts of the country through their BRS spectrum holdings (as is Rogers) but it wouldn’t provide the same advantages in terms of building penetration and rural / remote coverage. TELUS does not currently have any BRS holdings and would be able to offer such an LTE connection until (potentially) after Industry Canada auctions off the rest of the BRS band, later this year or in 2015. Alternatively, TELUS would need to refarm already deployed spectrum, possibly by speeding up the sunsetting of their CDMA network. As noted above, the D & E unpaired blocks may have been seen as a sufficient substitute for a contiguous paired blocks.
Although this image shows TELUS with 3 blocks adjacent, they could not provide a contiguous downlink. The uplink for the paired lower C block sits next to the unpaired (downlink) D & E blocks.