The real winners of Thursday’s CRTC decision? Canada’s telecom companies

Some telecommunications analysts and consumer advocates say the country’s regional wireless and internet carriers will benefit the most from a landmark regulatory ruling Thursday by the CRTC.

Analyst reports say two of Canada’s publicly traded mid-sized regional telecommunications groups will likely have more room to grow, given the CRTC’s new restrictions on BCE’s Bell Canada, Rogers Communications Inc. and Telus Corp.

But analysts from RBC Capital Markets and Canaccord Genuity say the three big national wireless carriers will likely be able to manage new the CRTC rules, which were announced Thursday.

“We view this decision as ‘constructive-enough’ and manageable for national operators while at the same time ‘extending a helping hand’ to existing regional wireless operators,” RBC analyst Drew McReynolds wrote in an report for clients.

Patrick Horan, portfolio manager with Agilith Capital said on the whole, the proposals were “well balanced” between the interests of big companies, smaller rivals, and consumers, but “I don’t think it changes much at the end of the day,” he told CBC News in an interview. 

“This isn’t really going to hurt the Big 3 at all in terms of a market share standpoint.”

One of Canada’s most outspoken consumer advocacy groups, OpenMedia, criticized the CRTC for putting too much emphasis on the regional carriers, doing too little to limit the market power of the Big Three and very little to help new entrants to the wireless markets.

Analysts took a more favourable view of the CRTC decision, noting that Quebecor’s Videotron will have more options to strengthen its base in Quebec or buy assets in other provinces and Cogeco Communications may be able to advance its strategic goal of adding wireless to its internet and cable TV networks in Ontario and Quebec.

Horan said that customers of small regional companies such as Videotron and Cogeco are indeed poised to benefit from the new regime, but ultimately they are a small slice of the market, and unlikely to grow dramatically.

Most observers, including the CRTC, say the future for Shaw Communications and its Freedom Mobile subsidiary in Ontario, Alberta and B.C. is more difficult to predict because of a proposed takeover by Rogers.

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