Looks like the big three wireless providers can breathe easy, at least for a minute.
In an interview with Bloomberg News, Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam said the company only had "limited interest" in entering the Canadian market and that speculation they were looking north was "way overblown."
McAdam spoke following the announcement that Verizon Communications Inc. is acquiring British mobile giant Vodafone's 45 per cent stake in Verizon Wireless for $130 million.
However, McAdam clarified that the company's lack of interest in Canada has nothing to do with the Vodafone deal, The Globe and Mail reported.
The buyout, the second-largest acquisition deal on record, would give Vodafone PLC additional cash to pursue its expansion ambitions in Europe. Those ambitions include its push to buy up other cellphone providers and to expand into the lucrative world of mobile services.
Canada's wireless companies were quick to respond, saying Verizon's decision does not ease their concerns about wireless rules in this country.
Josh Blair, the executive vice-president of Telus (TSX:T) said he remains concerned about government policy on the spectrum — the radio waves needed to make cellphone networks operate — available to Canadian wireless carriers.
"This has never been about Verizon coming into Canada, or not, it's always been about fair access to spectrum," Blair said.
"Spectrum is the lifeblood of our industry, and without fair access to it, that's going to potentially, permanently disadvantage Canadian companies," he said.
Bell Canada spokesman Mark Langton called it "significant news," but echoed Blair's concerns about regulations in Canada.
"The regulatory loopholes that give advantages to big foreign carriers remain and should be closed," Langton said.
"Canadians have said they want competition, but only if it's fair competition."
The prospect of Verizon entering the Canadian market had caused a stir among Canadian wireless carriers.
The big wireless providers argued that big foreign players like Verizon would be given an unfair advantage under the current wireless rules.
Those rules remain "wide open," Blair said.
"Just because Verizon isn't coming doesn't mean another large foreign company ... might not want to come to Canada and take advantage of rules that, literally, would gift them a path to half of the 700 megahertz spectrum," he said.
Blair said Telus would like to see the rules changed before January 2014 when telecom companies bid in an auction for wireless spectrum.
Telus, Rogers and Bell have complained that foreign companies are given advantages since under the auction rules they're treated like a new player entering the Canadian market.
That means a foreign bidder would have access to bid on two blocks of prime 700 megahertz spectrum while the three domestic carriers can bid on only one block apiece.
A spokeswoman for Industry Minister James Moore said the Verizon move won't change much of anything for Ottawa's plans for the spectrum auction.
"We will continue to move forward with the auction as planned," Jessica Fletcher said Monday.
Companies have until Sept. 17 to apply, so no one will have a full grasp of the competitive landscape until then, Fletcher said.
The big three Canadian carriers also launched a media campaign to warn that they would be at a disadvantage if Verizon were allowed into the market under the current set of rules.
Thousands of members from two of the country's biggest unions rallied last week against federal telecom rules they said would let foreign firms into Canada without the guarantee of new jobs.
With files from The Canadian Press
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