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Orange flower image, showcasing the natural beauty of British Columbia

The upcoming 700 MHz spectrum auction — what some call the “beachfront property” of wireless — is happening in exactly one week, on January 14th, 2014. This sought-after spectrum can easily reach remote areas (with fewer cell sites), is cheaper for carriers to deploy, and has the ability to penetrate through thick walls into buildings, reducing dead spots.

Industry Canada recently released the final list of 15 qualified bidders dueling it out for this contested wireless space. The usual suspects are present: Rogers, Bell, TELUS, and regional carriers like SaskTel, Eastlink MTS, and Globalive (WIND Mobile). In addition, some new players made the cut, namely Mobilicity founder John Bitove’s Feenix Wireless. A few companies recently decided to drop out for unknown reasons. The list has now been narrowed to 11: this is a homogenous group making a play for licenses, thus potentially limiting wireless competition in Canada.

This auction has a different set-up than the auction in 2008, as the format is a “combinatorial clock auction.” This is where participants bid on a “package” of the spectrum, rather than bidding item-by-item. In addition, the federal government will not communicate who the winning bidders are for each block until the auction concludes, again different than ’08.

source: Industry Canada