04/26/2012 11:43 EDT | Updated 06/26/2012 05:12 EDT

Globalive wins wireless fight with Wind Mobile

Canada's top court will not hear the case brought forward by one of Wind Mobile's competitors who objected to the company being permitted to launch a national cellular telephone service, despite receiving the majority of its funding from foreign interests.

In a ruling released Thursday, the Supreme Court of Canada decided it would not hear Public Mobile's complaint against Globalive Wireless Management Corp.

In 2009, the CRTC said Wind Mobile did not have the right to launch a Canadian wireless service because it was majority funded and therefore controlled by Egyptian telecom conglomerate Orascom — which has itself since been bought by Russian telecom giant Vimpelcom.

But Cabinet overruled that decision and allowed the company to roll out its service nationally in the fall of that year. Public Mobile, which had also started a national cellular service, objected to that decision from the start and challenged the legality of the government's actions.

The court's ruling brings an end to a seesaw battle that had seen Cabinet overrule the CRTC, only to have a lower court overrule that decision before being ultimately rejected by Canada's highest court.

The decision is largely symbolic, however, since in March, the Conservative government signalled its intention to change foreign ownership rules to encourage the type of foreign investment that Wind Mobile has.

Ottawa now says it will lift the stringent conditions it imposes on telecom companies as long as they make up less than 10 per cent of Canada's overall market.

"Wind is interested in fighting in the marketplace … not in fighting in courtrooms," Wind chairman Tony Lacavera said. "We're extremely pleased with the Supreme Court's decision, which will allow us to tie off this loose end and continue working" to serve Wind's customer base of 400,000 people, Lacavera said.

"I feel really good now about approaching our investors and new potential investors that can back us now with confidence that all of our regulatory and legal issues are fully and finally behind us."

Wind and other upstarts like Public Mobile and Mobilicity are eking out market share gains, but are still mere drops in the bucket compared to the 24 million combined cellular customers at the three big incumbents — Bell, Rogers and Telus.

Ottawa is currently preparing to auction off a superior level of wireless signals, known as the 700 megahertz spectrum, which allows for faster and more efficient transfer of data. That auction, expected before the end of 2013, will have have limits on the amount of spectrum any one wireless carrier can buy, but thus far the government has declined to specify exactly what limits there will be.