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Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) Rules

On October 19, 2022, the Commission released Telecom Decision CRTC 2022-288 related to the implementation of the facilities-based wholesale Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) access service tariffs that were filed by Bell Mobility, Rogers, TELUS and SaskTel (collectively, the incumbents). The decision deals with the terms and conditions of MVNO access, not the rates for such network access.


Eligibility


To be eligible for access the MVNO tariffs, one must be registered with the Commission as a wireless carrier, have a home public mobile network somewhere in Canada (including a radio access network [RAN] and core network), and be actively offering mobile wireless services commercially to retail customers.


Eligible wireless carriers include regional wireless carriers that hold Local Telephone (TEL) spectrum licences (i.e., various SILECs). According to the Commission, this will benefit competition, mainly in rural areas. Additionally, it was determined that subordinated spectrum licence holders count for the purposes of eligibility subject to some limitations.


The MVNO access service can only be utilized by wireless carriers’ customers residing in an area covered by that wireless carriers’ spectrum licences. Roaming tariffs would cover visited usage outside of these areas. The MVNO access coverage area is to be considered as an extension of a regional wireless carrier’s home network, which eliminates the need for a regional wireless carrier to differentiate between its end-users who reside in the MVNO access coverage area and those who do not.


Wireless carriers making use of the MVNO access tariffs are expected to build out their own RAN within the areas covered by the MVNO access arrangements within seven years.


Other MVNO Service Conditions


The Commission mandated seamless hand-off functionality for the MVNO access service to prevent dropped calls and data sessions when end-users move between the MVNO access coverage zone and a regional wireless carrier’s home network. This condition is subject to a review and vary application by Bell Mobility.


As well, the Commission clarified its view surrounding resale of MVNO access services and ordered the wireless network providers to remove terms restricting those activities. It reasoned that the smaller regional providers “themselves would be making the business decision to resell their wholesale access and permitting their own resellers to resell the service,” when it chose to not allow resale-of-resale restrictions.


The Commission also determined that MVNO access service is to be offered on all current and future Global System for Mobile communications (GSM)-based network generations (3G, 4G/long-term evolution, 5G, and beyond).


Rate Related Provisions


While the decision does not deal with MVNO access rates, the Commission determined that negotiated MVNO access rates be open to renegotiation at least every two years from the date they are last established. Parties may agree to a different time frame if they so choose

The Commission also indicated that it expects executed MVNO agreements to be in place within 90 days of the date of the decision approving the final tariffs. If this time frame is not met, the Commission will consider adding time to the term of the seven-year mandate.


Internet of Things (IOT) Follow-up


In the decision, the Commission provided a preliminary view that it is highly likely that the market conditions in the enterprise and Internet of Things (IoT) and machine-to-machine (M2M) segments closely resemble those seen in the rest of the retail market—that is, highly concentrated with the incumbents exercising market power—and will initiate a proceeding regarding the inclusion of those segments in the MVNO access policy framework.

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