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Battle over Freedom Mobile in Canada heats up

The founder of Freedom Mobile in Canada is mounting a public relations campaign to urge regulators in the country to approve his proposed return to the company.

"We need a mobile carrier that both wants and has to earn the business of Canadians every single day. A mobile carrier that doesn't have current or historical ties to the Big Three carriers [Bell Canada, Telus and Rogers Communications] – no cozy personal relationships, employment history or closed-door, back-room deals that benefit everyone – but the consumer," wrote investor Anthony Lacavera, founder of Globalive and Wind Mobile.

Lacavera sold Wind – reportedly against his wishes – to Shaw Communications in 2016, and the business is now called Freedom Mobile. "We need a true alternative that will drive more network investment and innovation across the industry, bringing fair pricing, and better service levels for everyone."

Lacavera also posted his call-out on Twitter:

At issue is the proposed $20.8 billion (CA$26 billion) merger between Canada's Rogers Communications and Shaw Communications, first announced almost exactly a year ago. Reports emerged earlier this year that Canadian officials don't want to approve the deal unless Shaw agrees to divest its wireless business.

Shaw offers wireless services in Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta through Freedom Mobile. It also offers services in British Columbia and Alberta through Shaw Mobile, which was launched in the summer of 2020 and billed as a converged services play. Shaw added 55,600 wireless customers in the company's fiscal first quarter, ending the period with 2.17 million wireless subscribers.

Meanwhile, Rogers' mobile business ended last year with around 11 million wireless customers. Rogers – which itself worked through a battle among its leadership late last year – has argued that a merger with Shaw is needed to grow and scale its 5G business.

The headquarters of Canadian telecom/media giant Rogers Communications.   (Source: Paul McKinnon/Alamy Stock Photo)
The headquarters of Canadian telecom/media giant Rogers Communications.
(Source: Paul McKinnon/Alamy Stock Photo)

The possibility of an up-for-sale Freedom Mobile has raised the interest of a number of potential suitors. According to the Financial Post, other companies that might be kicking the tires on the business include Xplornet, Quebecor, Cogeco and Eastlink. According to the Globe and Mail, Lacavera's Globalive Capital has offered $2.9 billion (CA$3.75 billion) for Freedom Mobile, Canada's fourth-largest wireless carrier. That bid has backing from a group of investors led by Twin Point Capital and Baupost Group, the publication added.

According to the Globe and Mail, officials from Rogers declined to comment on Lacavera's new plea. Canadian regulators said they're still reviewing the deal.

Officials from Rogers and Shaw have said they expect to close their merger during the second quarter of 2022.

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Mike Dano, Editorial Director, 5G & Mobile Strategies, Light Reading | @mikeddano

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