The wireless spectrum auction, a CRTC decision on wholesale phone services and the privatization of Bell Canada will be the big Canadian telecommunications stories of 2008, according to consultancy The SeaBoard Group.
The auction, which is scheduled to begin at the end of May, will have everyone's attention in that it could bring in new cellphone providers, SeaBoard said in its year-end wrap-up and forecast, released on Monday.
Rehearsals, teaming up and jockeying for position among cellphone players will all take place over the next few months, but the real interest will centre on who will eventually bid.
"Certainly bids are expected from MTS Allstream, Videotron and Eastlink, but who else may join the fray?" the report said.
Shaw Communications and smaller cable companies such as WestMan that are looking to offer customers a quadruple play of home phone, cellphone, internet and television will have a strong case for bidding, SeaBoard said.
The industry is also anxiously awaiting a decision by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission on what it considers essential services.
With the move to deregulate phone markets started in 2007, the government changed the game on services that are sold by infrastructure owners such as Bell and Telus to resellers such as Primus. All eyes will be on the CRTC to decide what those resale rules should be, SeaBoard said.
Bell is also scheduled to be privatized and removed from the stock market as a publicly traded company in 2008, which SeaBoard said will result in a number of questions about the company's future. The company's new owners will have to make significant investment decisions, including whether Bell should spend more on its landline business so that it can raise internet speeds and offer better television services, or whether it should sell the unit altogether.
The consultancy also said that 2008 "must be the year" that Apple's iPhone finally comes to Canada in an official capacity.