Based on news reports since last Friday, it appears that new efforts are being pursued by various parties to solve the impasse in which Mobilicity has been mired since it entered creditor protection in September 2013.
We were intrigued by reports that John Bitove and his holding company Obelysk, with employees of Mobilicity, have been promoting a solution where Mobilicity would not only sell its spectrum licenses to an incumbent mobile carrier, but, would also continue to operate as an Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO), running on the network of the host Mobile Network Operator (MNO) who would buy its spectrum licenses.
We note that in 2014, Mobilicity expressed a lukewarm opinion on MVNOs in an exchange with CRTC during the wholesale mobile services public hearing. We reproduce key excerpts of this exchange below:
“1521 You have limited your comments for the most part in such a way as that you haven’t addressed the MVNO issue. You don’t have to, but if you would like to this is your chance.
1522 MR. BOOTH: Sure, yes.
1523 I would say our only point of view on it would be two. One is, it’s an interesting idea but the ship, in our view, has sailed. That might have been a discussion for 2007, but we don’t really see the value of that discussion now after companies like us have invested hundreds of millions of dollars in spectrum, built sites, launched a national service, created thousands of jobs, then allowing companies to come in out of nowhere with basically no investment — despite what Cogeco said — very little to no investment and have a brand spout up on a national level overnight. So we don’t really see the value of that in a market which we just said, we believe the retail market is competitive.
1527 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: So you are not opposed to them, but you are not — you’re just agnostic on the file?
1528 MR. BOOTH: I will say we are not in favour of them, how’s that?
1529 COMMISSIONER MENZIES: Okay. Thank you. That clears it up
Nevertheless, over the last year, MVNOs in the US have continued to gain traction and stimulate innovation, for example with Google’s Project Fi, while at the same time other carriers, such as T-Mobile, have been experiencing their best growth thanks to reinvigorated commercial strategies.
We also note, that as documented by LYA in expert reports to CRTC in 2014, ensuring access to a MNO network by MVNOs has been a key policy tool used by regulators in some EU countries to ensure a continued level of competition in the mobile broadband market when deciding to approve carrier acquisitions and spectrum transfers.
Could the Obelysk/Mobilicity proposal inspire Industry Canada to choose a similar approach as these EU members to reach a successful conclusion when faced (again) with a decision regarding the acquisition of the Mobilicity licenses by an incumbent carrier ?