Canada ‘to ease telecoms ownership laws'

The Canadian Government may be about to ease investment limits on foreign telecoms companies in order to spur competition in the country’s wireless sector, industry watchers have said.

Canada’s industry minister Christian Paradis may even announce the end of the circumscribing of foreign ownership by the end of this week. Today he is presenting an update on the country’s digital economy at a conference in capital Ottawa , and is meeting Wall Street analysts on Friday.

Foreigners are at present prohibited from owning more than 46.7% of the voting shares of a telecoms company. Similar restrictions apply to the broadcasting and airline sectors.

The Canadian government is expected to liberalise this law, possibly to the extent of allowing 100% foreign ownership of Canadian wireless companies so long as they have less than 10% market share. Smaller Canadian wireless companies have said they need greater access to foreign investment to compete against larger incumbent interests. The Canadian wireless market is currently 95% controlled by the trio of BCE, Telus and Roger Communications.

The Canadian Government has been under pressure to change its foreign telecoms rules since it clashed in 2009 with telecoms watchdog the CRTC over ownership of Wind Mobile. The CRTC had ruled that the company had too much financial backing from Egypt’s Orascom telecom holding S.A.E. The decision was overruled by the government, which argued that Wind Mobile’s voting power rested with Canadians.

In a separate move, Canadian communications provider Allstream has announced the deployment of Ciena optical technology across its national broadband network. Allstream is using a combination of Ciena’s 6500 Packet-Optical Platform and network management software. The platform has 40G/100G coherent optical technology built into it, enabling Allstream to offer new high capacity services.

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