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BCE, Telus ask government to block Quebecor's 5G spectrum purchase in Western Canada


BCE Inc. and Telus Corp. are asking the Federal Court to block Quebecor Inc.'s purchase of 5G spectrum in Western Canada, stating the company didn't meet the requirements to bid on airwaves there.

The court challenges come after an auction of a key 5G spectrum by Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada this summer.

The companies said Quebecor subsidiary Videotron was able to purchase spectrum in Manitoba, Alberta and British Columbia that was set aside for smaller carriers, allowing it to access airwaves at a cheaper price than Canada's largest carriers.

Bell said the set-aside spectrum for smaller carriers was only eligible to companies that have pre-existing operations in the jurisdiction, and argued Quebecor doesn't have a presence in those provinces. 

Telus and Bell are asking the court to block Quebecor's purchase and for the government to hold the auction again.

However, Quebecor CEO Pierre Karl Péladeau said his company is eligible because its affiliate Fibrenoire Inc. provides business services in several provinces outside Quebec. 

"Detailed evidence regarding these activities was provided to ISED during the auction application process. It was based on this evidence that ISED correctly determined Videotron’s eligibility." said Péladeau in a statement. 

“This is just another attempt from Bell and Telus to eliminate real competition, but Canadians deserve better than today’s overpriced wireless marketplace.”

Telus acknowledged Fibrenoire's services in its court filing, but said the company focuses on providing services in Ontario and Quebec. 

"In Quebecor’s press release describing Vidéotron’s acquisition of Fibrenoire, Fibrenoire is described as: “a telecommunications company specializing exclusively in fibre-optic connectivity services for businesses in Quebec and Ontario," Telus said in its notice of application to Federal Court.

"Fibrenoire continues to describe itself in a similar manner today."

Bell also said there is no indication that Fibrenoire solicits business from companies in Manitoba, Alberta or British Columbia.

It argued Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada failed to properly conduct analysis or review of Videotron's application.

Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada declined to comment on the matter while it's in court.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug 30, 2021.

Companies in this story: (TSX:BCE, TSX:QBR.B, TSX:T)

Salmaan Farooqui, The Canadian Press

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