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Verizon has no interest in coming to Canada, CEO tells Bloomberg

A Verizon Wireless store is seen in San Francisco, Calif., on Jan. 24, 2012. GETTY IMAGES/Justin Sullivan

Verizon Communications Inc. is no longer interested in entering the Canadian wireless market, the company’s CEO Lowell McAdam said Monday.

McAdam made the comments after the company announced it had agreed to pay US$130 billion for the 45 per cent stake in Verizon Wireless owned by British cellphone carrier Vodafone.

“At this point in time we’re not interested in entering the Canadian wireless market,” McAdam said, according to Verzion spokesman Bob Varettoni.

Canada’s wireless companies were quick to respond, saying Verizon’s decision does not ease their concerns about wireless rules in this country.

Josh Blair, the executive vice-president of Telus said he remains concerned about government policy on the spectrum — the radio waves needed to make cellphone networks operate — available to Canadian wireless carriers.

“This has never been about Verizon coming into Canada, or not, it’s always been about fair access to spectrum,” Blair said.

“Spectrum is the lifeblood of our industry, and without fair access to it, that’s going to potentially, permanently disadvantage Canadian companies,” he said.

Bell Canada spokesman Mark Langton called it “significant news,” but echoed Blair’s concerns about regulations in Canada.

“The regulatory loopholes that give advantages to big foreign carriers remain and should be closed,” Langton said.

“Canadians have said they want competition, but only if it’s fair competition.”

The prospect of Verizon entering the Canadian market had caused a stir among Canadian wireless carriers.

The big wireless providers argued that big foreign players like Verizon would be given an unfair advantage under the current wireless rules.

Those rules remain “wide open,” Blair said.

“Just because Verizon isn’t coming doesn’t mean another large foreign company … might not want to come to Canada and take advantage of rules that, literally, would gift them a path to half of the 700 megahertz spectrum,” he said.

Blair said Telus would like to see the rules changed before January 2014 when telecom companies bid in an auction for wireless spectrum.

Telus, Rogers and Bell have complained that foreign companies are given advantages since under the auction rules they’re treated like a new player entering the Canadian market.

(Rogers is parent of CityNews and CityNews.ca)

That means a foreign bidder would have access to bid on two blocks of prime 700 megahertz spectrum while the three domestic carriers can bid on only one block apiece.

A spokeswoman for Industry Minister James Moore said the Verizon move won’t change much of anything for Ottawa’s plans for the spectrum auction.

“We will continue to move forward with the auction as planned,” Jessica Fletcher said Monday.

Companies have until Sept. 17 to apply, so no one will have a full grasp of the competitive landscape until then, Fletcher said.

The big three Canadian carriers also launched a media campaign to warn that they would be at a disadvantage if Verizon were allowed into the market under the current set of rules.

Thousands of members from two of the country’s biggest unions rallied last week against federal telecom rules they said would let foreign firms into Canada without the guarantee of new jobs.