Bidders line up for Canadian wireless

Shaw, Quebecor, Globalive set for spectrum auction

TORONTO -- Shaw Communications Inc., Quebecor Inc. or Globalive Communications Inc. are set to compete in a wireless spectrum auction to be held Tuesday by the Canadian government.

The final bidding lineup follows last-minute withdrawals from the national spectrum hunt by Primus Canada and Manitoba Telecom Services, the Manitoba phone giant that aimed to participate with backing from the Canadian Pension Plan Investment Board and Blackstone Capital Partners.

As Ottawa aims to open up Canada's cell phone market, around 40% of available radio airwaves will be auctioned off for wireless phone calls and e-mail so new entrants can compete against incumbents Bell Canada, Rogers Communications and Telus Corp.

The remaining 60% of spectrum will be available to all bidders, including the three incumbents.

Any new entrant will need to invest around CAN$1.5 billion to have a chance to steal market share from Bell Canada, Rogers or Telus, according to analysts.

The spectrum launch is expected to last a few weeks, and new market entrants are expected to launch new cell phone services in early 2009.