Ottawa moves to cap domestic wireless roaming rates charged by companies

OTTAWA – Ottawa said Wednesday it’s going to move to put a cap on domestic wireless roaming rates.

Industry Minister James Moore announced the government will make legislative changes to prevent wireless providers from charging rival companies more than they charge their own customers for domestic roaming.

“The roaming rates that Canada’s largest wireless companies are charging other domestic providers can be more than 10 times what they charge their own customers,” Moore said in a statement.

“With domestic roaming rates on networks capped, Canadian consumers will benefit from more competition in the wireless market.”

The minister said the legislative changes will be in place until the CRTC, which is already investigating the issue, makes a decision on roaming rates.

The government will also make changes to give the CRTC and Industry Canada the ability to fine companies that break rules such as the wireless code and improve the sharing of information between the CRTC and the Competition Bureau.

Last week, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission said it will look into whether big wireless companies are charging their smaller Canadian competitors too much to use their networks.

Roaming fees are charged when customers use their cellphones or smartphones outside their own network provider’s coverage area

Smaller wireless providers with smaller networks often rely on the networks of bigger companies to be able to offer their local customers national coverage when they travel.

Under the current rules, Industry Canada decided that established wireless players have to allow new wireless companies the use of their networks, but the terms were left to be worked out between them.

However, the smaller companies have complained that the rates the large incumbent companies charge are too high.

Reports have suggested the new wireless companies have had difficulty taking away significant market share from the big players — Rogers (TSX:RCI.B), Telus (TSX:T) and Bell (TSX:BCE).

Rogers, Bell and Telus have more than 25 million wireless subscribers among them.