Thursday, July 10, 2014

Hey, let's have another wireless auction!

The telecommunications industry can be as dry as melba toast on a hot summer's morning. It is, to be charitable, not the sexiest of sectors, thanks to incomprehensible layers of government regulation and enough arcane technology to make an Amazon data centre look like a children's playground.

See what I did? I put you to sleep. That's my point.

Yet, for reasons I am unable to fully understand, I find it fascinating. Incredibly so. As an important pillar of the broader tech industry, telecom ensures that all those wondrous gadgets we line up to buy actually have a way of connecting with each other. It governs how much we spend to keep in touch. And how well all of this stuff works. If a country does telecom right, its citizens can lead better lives, both at home and at work. If it gets it wrong, we become digital era have-nots.

As ridiculously Byzantine as telecom can seem, it has huge meaning to each and every one of us. And telling that story has become an important part of my overall narrative as a technology journalist.

So news that Canada's conservative government decided on Monday to schedule a last-minute wireless spectrum auction, known as AWS-3, was like a thunderbolt. Governments don't just decide to hold a snap auction. These events are usually scheduled years in advance, with all participants taking similar amounts of time to review the reams of rules and regulations before deciding to make sometimes-billion-dollar bets on the future of the industry.

We just finished a pretty pivotal one, known as the 700 MHz auction, earlier this year, and the 2.5 GHz auction looms next April. The surprise of the bunch, AWS-3, will slot in early next year, and the decision to hold it is as radically let's-get-drunk-and-do-this-thing crazy as it gets.

I wrote this article for Yahoo Canada Finance: Ottawa goes for broke with new wireless auction

I also chatted about it with a number of media outlets, including CTV News (Zuraidah Alman's report here) Winnipeg's CJOB and London's 1290 CJBK (audio here) and AM980, as well as a cross-country run with CBC Radio stations in a bunch of paces, including Edmonton, Montreal, Victoria, Kelowna, Whitehorse (audio here), Vancouver, Quebec City, Winnipeg, Toronto, Ottawa, Calgary, and Saskatchewan.

I know it seems boring. But the mobile landscape is being rewritten in this country. And I find that almost too cool for words. Which means this is a story with more chapters yet to be written. Now where's my pen?

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