09/17/2015 12:24 EDT | Updated 09/17/2016 05:12 EDT

Vidéotron Won't Build National Wireless Network 'From Scratch'

Québecor's vice president Jean-François Pruneau says the company has decided not to build a national wireless network from scratch, but is still considering its options on how to use spectrum outside Quebec its Vidéotron unit bought earlier this year.

Among the possibilities open to its wireless carrier Vidéotron are partnering with another player, such as Wind, in Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta, Pruneau said at a CIBC investor conference on Wednesday.

Another option is selling off the 700Mhz and 2500Mhz airwaves it purchased in those provinces, which could result in a windfall for Vidéotron, as it bought them at special price reserved for new entrants in those markets.

The federal Conservatives have been promoting competition in the wireless sector and had hoped to cultivate a fourth national carrier to compete with Bell, Telus and Rogers.

That was the recipe for bringing down Canada's high wireless prices, then industry minister James Moore said.

Vidéotron has scored wireless licences in the 700 megahertz spectrum in Ontario, B.C. and Alberta in an auction that wrapped up in February, increasing hopes that it would be a fourth carrier.

Company executives suggested that might be the case, but never committed to a rollout plan.

Prudent with balance sheet

Quebecor spokesman Michael Tremblay told CBC News the company is adopting a prudent approach to its balance sheet.

So while it is building out its LTE network in Quebec, giving customers faster data and better, stronger cellular signals that work in places such as elevators, basements and parking garages, Vidéotron has no plans to invest in wireless infrastructure nationally.

Pruneau  said Vidéotron could partner with a small carrier like Wind to lessen some of the capital burden and give Wind more leverage to make deals with companies like Apple.

Tremblay refused to say whether Vidéotron was in talks with Wind.

He also could not give a timeline for when the company might make a decision on how to use its spectrum.

Could sell it

Pruneau also suggested the company might be in a position to sell that spectrum to one of the incumbent companies, such as Bell, Telus or Rogers.

He pointed to Industry Canada's decision to allow Rogers to take over Mobilicity spectrum and speculated that regulators may be softening the rules on resale of spectrum.

"The landscape has changed," he told investors.

"We now have various options to maximize our return on investment while minimizing risk," he continued. "Those options include, among others, transferring the spectrum to a third party for cash, securities or both."