Yet Another Carrier Set to Leave the CWTA?

Last Friday we learned that TELUS was leaving the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association. At this point it’s old news — stale enough that I’m adding this post to an existing thread on that same subject. It’s also not the CWTA’s first defection; upstart carriers Mobilicity, Public Mobile and WIND pulled out simultaneously in the spring of 2013.

So a lot of sound bites and official statements were flying about last week, and one of them escaped me altogether: There’s potentially another Big Three carrier that might break rank and exit the CWTA as well.

What is the CWTA, anyway?

CWTA Logo

From a blurb on their home page:

Wireless has spawned a communications revolution. And certainly, in a country as large as ours, any technology that brings us closer also makes us stronger. Particularly since Canada has some of the most advanced wireless networks in the world.

But the story doesn’t end there. The economic contribution of Canada’s wireless industry is equally profound. It contributes $43 billion and roughly 261,000 jobs to the economy. We invest in the country and in our people. A strong signal for a stronger Canada.

TL;DR they’re a lobbying group.

Who left and why?

On the day of their announced exodus Canada’s upstart carriers issued a joint press release, with statements from each:

“When we were first approached by the CWTA, we were promised clear and fair representation on issues of true industry alignment,” said Simon Lockie, Chief Regulatory Officer for WIND Mobile. “But despite making our objections and concerns abundantly clear on numerous occasions, the CWTA has repeatedly failed to honour this promise, leaving us no alternative but to withdraw.”

“It has been evident for quite some time that, rather than being a true industry association which represents the views of all players regardless of size, the CWTA has instead largely been an advocate for Rogers, TELUS and Bell, and often directly contrary to the interests of new entrant wireless carriers,” said Bob Boron, General Counsel and Senior Vice-President, Legal & Regulatory Affairs for Public Mobile.

“We have spent the better part of three years repeatedly voicing our opposition to the CWTA on a wide range of matters to the point of issuing a press release in January 2011 that publically expressed our dissent on the CWTA’s position on wireless consumer protection,” said Gary Wong, Director of Legal Affairs for Mobilicity.  “There seems to be a blatant disregard of the new entrants in favour of acting in the best interests of the Big Three carriers and it is unacceptable.”

I can also remember hearing unsubstantiated rumours that the cost of membership in the association was too high. Anyone care to help me out with a citation for that?

TELUS’ official word on their exit last week was a bit less clear. From The Globe and Mail:

“Telus’s decision to withdraw from the CWTA reflects our desire to continue progressing our highly differentiated strategy and our unique ‘customers first’ approach,” said Josh Blair, Telus’s chief corporate officer.

Mmkay…

So who’s next?

I caught this via a post on iPhone in Canada, a reblog of a piece in The Winnipeg Free Press. With TELUS leaving the CWTA it would only make sense to get a statement from Bell and Rogers on their respective futures with the association. Bell was quoted as saying they’ve no plans to break ties; Rogers said this:

“We’ve been reviewing our options and we’ll make a decision that’s right for our customers,” spokeswoman Patricia Trott said…

A bit ominous, that.

Payback

I found one more link that might explain the CWTA’s current predicament. Here’s an interesting quote from IT World Canada:

It is fair to say that the CWTA hadn’t been batting 1.000 lately. It has lost a number of lobbying efforts in Ottawa, including having a completely open structure for the just-completed 700 MHz auction (instead the Harper government imposed caps), keeping the government out of regulating domestic roaming fees (instead the government is about to bring in legislation regulating fees, and the federal regulator, the CRTC, is looking into the fees itself).

Could TELUS, and potentially Rogers, be turning their backs on the CWTA as payback for failed lobbying efforts? It makes sense to me… What do you think?

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