The 3.5 GHz spectrum auction was dominated by Canada’s three largest operators, who accounted for 80% of the spend

Yesterday, Canada announced the completion of its 3.5 GHz spectrum auction, seeing all three of Canada’s major mobile operators make significant investments. 

In fact, around 80% of the $7.2 billion raised by the record auction was paid by just three telcos, with BCE reportedly spending $1.68 billion, Rogers $2.64 billion, and Telus $1.52 billion.

Of the 1,504 licences being made available by the regulator, 1,495 were awarded. But while the major Canada’s biggest players competed fiercely for the most valuable blocks of spectrum, smaller and regional operators actually accounted for around half (757) of the licences sold.  

In total, 23 companies participated in the auction.

“The 3,500 MHz auction is a key step in our government’s plan to promote competition in the telecom sector, improve rural connectivity, and ensure Canadians benefit from 5G technologies and services,” said Francois-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry in a statement.

“As intended, small and regional providers have gained access to significantly more spectrum, meaning that Canadians can expect better wireless services at more competitive prices, which has never been more important for working, online learning and staying connected with loved ones,” he added.

Vidéotron, owned by Quebecor Inc., was the largest of these smaller telcos, spending $664 million for licences not only in Quebec but also in Ontario, Manitoba, Alberta and British Columbia. In a statement, the company suggested that it would use the spectrum to “realise its ambition of boosting healthy competition in telecom beyond the borders of Québec”, with some onlookers suggesting that the move was the start of a major push to become Canada’s fourth major operator.

The 3.5 GHz band is particularly popular for 5G services due to being a happy medium between delivering the quintessential higher capacities, increased speeds, and lower latencies, while retaining reasonable signal propagation. This will allow operators to broadly improve both the quality and distance of 5G services.

Rogers suggests that this spectrum allocation will allow it to reach 99.4% of the Canadian population with 5G.

This auction follows a similar pattern to the mid-band 5G auction in the US earlier this year, which also raised around $8 billion


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