Perhaps the highlight of the second day of the Canadian Telecom Summit was the Regulatory Blockbuster event. The panel discussion had representatives from both the incumbent national wireless players, and new entrants.

The basic message of the incumbents was that they needed incentives to invest capital without having to share those facilities. Ted Woodhead of Telus believes that wireless industry has been a success in Canada because at present there were adequate incentives for the telcos to invest. Jonathon Daniels from Bell argued that an over regulated environment leads to the European scenario where there was not adequate profit for capital investment, and hence Europeans were far behind Canada in deployment of LTE infrastructure. Ken Engelhart of Rogers believes that the role of government was to remove barriers to competition, but should not help individual competitors. In short, the three incumbents are ready to fight it out among themselves, and particularly with the new entrants.

From the new entrant perspective, Simon Lockie countered that they needed regulatory protection to succeed. For example, it was impossible to build a national network at once. To have a chance at success, they would need regulators to ensure reasonable roaming fees for them.

I do agree that there needs to be incentive to build out and profit from modern network infrastructure, or the required investment would not take place. What was lacking from the panel was a consumer representative. If one were there, he may have talked about the lower wireless costs outside of Canada, the importance of keeping prices under control. If a government representative were there, she would have brought the issue of price back to competition and the need for the new entrants to succeed.

We have to find a way to balance the dual needs of providing incentives for telcos to invest in a modern wireless infrastructure, while still keeping prices low.