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CRTC to allow some small carriers access national wireless networks

Canada’s biggest wireless network operators suffered a major setback today as the CRTC issued orders that will make it easier for smaller rivals to compete, which in turn will likely reduce costs for mobile phone users.

The federal telecom regulator is adopting many of the recommendations that consumer groups and smaller telecom businesses pursued as they argued it should be less expensive for emerging operators to connect to national wireless networks on a wholesale basis.

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The CRTC says regional networks that meet certain standards will be able to operate as “mobile virtual network operators,” or MVNOs, in areas where competition is limited.

That means they pay wholesale for access to the major networks while maintaining a distinct customer base.

The CRTC has also given Bell, Rogers and Telus, plus government-owned SaskTel, three months to provide more affordable plans for seniors, low-income earners and people who use mobile phones sparingly.

So far, the Big Three have been staunch opponents of MVNOs, which they portray as businesses seeking the benefits of a national network without paying into the cost of building and maintaining expensive infrastructure.

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