SaskTel is keeping a watchful eye on a big U.S. phone company that could soon enter Canada.
Reports indicate U.S. giant Verizon may buy up two small Canadian carriers which would give the company entry into the country’s wireless phone industry.
The timing of the move is crucial, as four blocks of bandwidth are up for auction in the fall.
John Meldrum, the vice-president of regulatory affairs for SaskTel, says the 700-megahertz blocks of bandwidth are especially important for northern customers because their signal would carry a long way.
Meldrum is doubtful Verizon would invest in rural and northern markets.
He says on the other hand, this is something SaskTel is committed to — and points to the construction of extra cell towers along Highway 2 between Prince Albert and La Ronge as proof.
“We put in two or three additional cell sites to ensure that the gaps in coverage were minimal on that highway,” he says. “You can rest assured there was no business case to do that.”
He says existing rules stipulate carriers must serve 50% of the province’s population, but Verizon would likely try to satisfy this target by serving Saskatoon and Regina.
Meldrum adds Verizon could also be given the option of bidding on two of the four blocks up for auction, if the government considers them to be a new player.
Due to existing rules, the country’s three main cell carriers — Rogers, Bell and Telus — are only allowed to bid on one of the blocks because they are considered established in the industry.
This doesn’t make sense to Meldrum, who says Verizon already has a massive revenue stream.
“We’re talking big, we’re talking huge,” he says. “They could probably buy the province of Saskatchewan if they wanted to.”