Opening remarks at the public hearing of the mobile wireless services review

Speech

Gatineau, Quebec

February 18, 2020

Ian Scott, Chairperson and Chief Executive Officer
Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission

Check against delivery

Good morning and welcome everyone.

Before we begin, I would like to acknowledge that we are gathered here on traditional unceded Algonquin territory. I want to thank the Algonquin people and pay respect to their Elders.

The CRTC is holding this public hearing as part of a comprehensive review of mobile wireless services. This review is very significant – Canadians, competitors and service providers are all paying close attention to it. Our objective is to ensure that the regulatory framework enables sustainable competition that provides better prices and innovative services for Canadians, as well as continued investments in high-quality networks across Canada.

The current framework for wholesale mobile wireless services was established in 2015. It requires Bell Mobility, Rogers and Telus to provide wholesale roaming services to competitors at rates set by the CRTC. This regime was to remain in place for a minimum of five years to allow for competition to develop sustainably.

Since then, the CRTC has updated the Wireless Code, taken steps to make lower-cost data only plans widely available to Canadians and finalized wholesale roaming rates – all in an effort to empower consumers and ensure the marketplace continues to meet their needs. We also made access to mobile wireless voice and Internet services part of the universal service objective.

We want Canadians to have access to world-class mobile wireless services, in terms of coverage, quality and price.

Between 2016 and 2018, wireless service providers have invested more than $7 billion in their networks to expand their reach and improve the quality of their service. According to our latest data, 99% of the population has access to LTE coverage, and 95% has access to LTE-A technology. We want to ensure that network investment continues so that the quality and speeds of Canada’s wireless networks are among the best in the world.

In terms of price, there has been progress. Mobile wireless rates decreased by an average of 28% between 2016 and 2018. We remain concerned, however, that these price decreases may not be keeping pace with what is transpiring in other jurisdictions, and we want to see a broader range of affordable options for consumers.

In light of these concerns, and the fact that there has been limited resale competition in the market, the CRTC decided to move ahead with a review of the mobile wireless framework.

Since we initiated this review, we have heard from many Canadians and other interested parties. In addition to the numerous comments that were submitted on the public record, over 28,000 Canadians participated in an online consultation about their mobile wireless services. A telephone survey also allowed us to gather views from over 1,200 Canadians who are statistically representative of the Canadian population. The reports from the online consultation and telephone survey are available on the public record.

What we’ve learned from the telephone survey is that most Canadians who responded to the survey are satisfied with their cellphone provider and are not likely to switch providers. That being said, we have heard loud and clear from Canadians that their cellphone bills are a concern to them. The vast majority of surveyed Canadians were of the view that prices for their cellphone service are not as competitive in Canada as they are in other countries, with 66% stating that Canada’s cellphone prices are worse than elsewhere in the world.

Clearly this is an important issue for Canadians and for the Commission.

At this hearing, we will focus on three key areas.

First, we will examine the state of competition in the mobile wireless market and whether further action is needed to improve choice and affordability.

Second, we will consider whether mobile virtual network operators, also known as MVNOs, should have mandated access to some or all wireless service providers’ networks and, if yes, subject to what considerations. On this matter, the CRTC’s preliminary view is that the national wireless service providers (Bell Mobility, Rogers and Telus) should be required to provide MVNOs with wholesale access to their networks, subject to certain constraints.

Finally, we will be looking at whether regulatory measures may be required to facilitate the deployment of 5G network infrastructure in Canada. We are on the verge of a major technological transformation as providers are gearing up to roll out 5G networks. In time, these networks will bring significant benefits to the Canadian economy, municipalities and Canadians. As a country, we need to be ready.

We have been developing an extensive public record during this proceeding, and will continue to do so through this hearing and the final comments that will be filed by interveners.

To all those who took the time to participate, we would like to thank you. You are an important part of this proceeding and we value your input.

The CRTC will make its decisions – in the public interest – based on the evidence put forth on the public record during the entire proceeding. While some issues may be raised in a more prominent manner during this hearing, we will be looking at the entirety of the evidence found on the public record. Our goal is to ensure that Canadians have access to a world-class communications system.

Before we proceed, I would also remind parties that the Commission has, under consideration, procedural requests from the Canadian Network Operators Consortium and Telus Communications. These requests seek disclosure of information filed in confidence by the Commissioner of Competition. A decision on these requests will be issued in the coming weeks.

Procedure

Finally, I would like to make a few introductions.

The panel for this hearing consists of:

  • Christianne Laizner, Vice-Chair of Telecommunications
  • Christopher MacDonald, Commissioner for the Atlantic Region and Nunavut
  • Joanne Levy, Commissioner for Manitoba and Saskatchewan
  • Alicia Barin, Commissioner for Quebec
  • and myself, Ian Scott, Chairperson of the CRTC.

The Commission staff assisting us includes:

  • Jeremy Lendvay and Marianne Blais, Hearing Managers
  • Eric Bowles and Adam Balkovec, Legal Counsel, and
  • Jade Roy, Hearing Secretary.

I would now invite Ms. Roy to explain the procedure we will be following.

Madam Secretary…..

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