Canada’s “4th carrier” may be closer than we think.

Ting logo

Last month the CBC ran a story about Ting, a Toronto-based company that offers wireless service to US customers — specifically, it resells mobile bandwidth bought in bulk from Sprint.

If this sounds at all familiar, it’s pretty much the same way that the independent ISP TekSavvy operates; here in Ontario they buy bandwidth in bulk from Bell and Rogers, then offer it to customers via their own cable and DSL plans — plans that are decidedly cheaper than what you’d pay Bell and Rogers, by the way. My TekSavvy DSL gives me a solid 25 Mbps down and 10 Mbps up for less than what I’d be paying Bell directly – and as an added bonus I get an exponentially higher bandwidth cap.

Similarly, while Sprint unlimited smartphone plans can go as high as $70 USD/month, Ting breaks up voice, messaging and data into separate buckets. You only pay for the minutes and data used, plus messages sent — incoming messages are free, I hope!

Ting seems to be a popular choice where it’s available. I myself have heard users sing its praises on at least one American podcast. And Sprint doesn’t seem to have any problem selling them wholesale mobile service.

Canada’s Big Three carriers, though, are an entirely different story. From that CBC piece:

“We would love to be in Canada,” said Ting CEO Elliott Noss. “Nobody will — at least at this juncture — sell us network.”

With our government intent on bringing a 4th national carrier to this country, even going so far as to actively court Verizon, wouldn’t a company already operating here be a better choice?

I’ve tried (and failed) to find any citation proving that (1) TekSavvy’s business came to be because Bell, Rogers et al decided to sell them bandwidth in the first place, or (2) the CRTC mandated it. Given our government’s outspoken opposition to the carriers’ Fair For Canada campaign, I think they could press the CRTC to make some mobile service available for Ting if they really wanted to.

Lars Cosh-Ishii is a Canadian living in Japan with an interesting perspective on our “spectrum soap opera”. He points to the fact that the Japanese government never sold off their public airwaves in the first place; as a result, all carriers have equal access to a robust national network. While I don’t see Canada taking back its own airwaves anytime soon, it could at least send some existing spectrum Ting’s way.

What do you think?