The federal telecom regulator has dismissed a complaint by Globalive Wireless Management Corp. arguing that Rogers Communications Inc. was denying Globalive's Wind Mobile customers the ability to roam seamlessly onto Rogers' network.
The two companies, Globalive and Rogers , had already negotiated a roaming agreement whereby Globalive's Wind cellular customers would roam onto Rogers' much larger network when leaving Wind's so-called "home zones," where Wind has built up its wireless network.
When Wind Mobile customers roam in this manner while on a call, their calls are generally cut off -- a practice known in the industry as a "hard hand-off." Globalive, however, argued that since the agreement was signed, Rogers has offered a seamless "soft hand-off" to customers of the Rogers-owned discount wireless brand Chatr -- which stingingly advertised that it had "fewer dropped calls than new wireless carriers."
Globalive argued before the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission that by doing so Rogers was thereby granting itself "undue preference," and that Globalive's customers should be offered the same soft hand-off. Rogers argued against that sugestion. The CRTC agreed with Rogers and dismissed the application.
"It would be inappropriate to deal with the issue of mandating seamless roaming," the CRTC wrote in its decision "The Commission notes, however, that the parties are free to negotiate any seamless roaming arrangement in good faith."
Globalive, which has also been dogged by regulatory findings and legal rulings on its large amount of foreign capital, has been arguing constantly that Rogers and other established wireless giants in Canada are trying to ensure that it fails. Anthony Lacavera, Globalive's chairman, speaks frequently to the media about how roaming issues and about how large providers refuse to share cellular infrastructure, such as towers, even though they are mandated to so by the government.
Rogers' Chatr brand has been particularly irksome for Globalive. Rogers has employed aggressive marketing for the brand, advertising that Chatr had less dropped calls than its newer rivals. Globalive complained to the Competition Bureau, and the bureau is now taking Rogers to court for a $10-million penalty.
"It is not acceptable that incumbents be permitted to drop new entrant customer calls," Mr. Lacavera said in an email to The Globe and Mail. "We will continue this fight with Industry Canada and again with the CRTC at the appropriate time. We will continue to aggressively fight incumbent anti-competitive practices."
Marketed as a distinct brand, Chatr has nearly identical prices and offers service in the same cities as Globalive's Wind brand, and several industry observers assumed that it was being used to deflate Wind's momentum and confuse the market place. Nevertheless, Rogers argued to the CRTC that Chatr is not a separate brand, does not operate its own network and does not own its own licences -- making it a wholly-owned Rogers product, to which no preference of any kind can be granted.
Asked about soft and hard hand-offs at the Canadian Telecom Summit in Toronto on Thursday, BCE Inc. chief executive George Cope responded that he knew of no country in the world where soft hand-offs were the norm between rival carriers.
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