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April 21, 2021 – High spectrum costs and regulatory impediments impact the rollout of 5G and undermines Canada’s technological competitiveness, says a new report from the C.D. Howe Institute.  

At their recent meetings, the Telecommunications Policy Working Group discussed spectrum policy and the consequences of high spectrum costs.

The Working Group agrees Ottawa’s primary goal should be to allocate spectrum most efficiently and ensure competitive access to spectrum. Improved spectrum allocation policy will enable the critically needed 5G infrastructure of the future.

Ottawa’s policy of auctioning off radiofrequency spectrum for telecommunications purposes is designed to minimize interference and ensure its safe use. But Canada lags peer jurisdictions in the timing and quantity of available spectrum for economically critical 5G spectrum bands. By the time of Canada’s June 2021 5G auction, 37 countries will have already assigned this 5G band.

The group also notes spectrum prices in Canada are almost four times higher than the international average. These elevated spectrum costs result in lower network investment and higher consumer prices. If spectrum costs were as low as those paid by European wireless carriers, Canadian wireless rates could be as much as 12 percent lower.

The group recommends:

  • The federal government’s process for awarding spectrum should be designed and updated more frequently to align with international best practices;
  • Governments improve the framework and timeliness for allocating spectrum – particularly to address high relative costs, expedite the now slow release of new spectrum, and ensure competitive availability; and
  • More frequent updates (i.e., spectrum outlook from Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada) to assist facilities operators and equipment manufacturers with business planning and anticipation of Canadian mobile network requirements.

The group of experts in both the private sector and academia is co-chaired by Len Waverman, Dean of DeGroote School of Business at McMaster University; and Steve Orsini, Adjunct Professor, Public Policy & Administration, Carleton University and former Ontario Secretary of Cabinet.

For more information, please contact: Benjamin Dachis, Director of Public Affairs, C.D. Howe Institute; or Nancy Schlomer, Communications Officer, C.D. Howe Institute, email: nschlomer@cdhowe.org

The C.D. Howe Institute is an independent not-for-profit research institute whose mission is to raise living standards by fostering economically sound public policies. Widely considered to be Canada's most influential think tank, the Institute is a trusted source of essential policy intelligence, distinguished by research that is nonpartisan, evidence-based and subject to definitive expert review.

Full Communiqué: CWGR_2021_0421.pdf