CRTC of `preliminary view' that Big 3 may be required to share wireless networks

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission is indicating that the country's three dominant wireless carriers may be required to provide their smaller competitors with easier access to their national networks.

The CRTC's message this week comes just days after the Trudeau government signalled it will replace a 2006 policy that puts more emphasis on infrastructure investments than on consumer affordability.

The federal telecom regulator says it has officially begun its long-promised review of Canada's mobile wireless market with the "preliminary view'' that there should be more opportunity for mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs).

Supporters of MVNOs, which pay for wholesale access to networks where they haven't installed their own facilities, argue prices for wireless services will fall by increasing competition.

However, wholesale resellers of wireless and internet services have been at a disadvantage in CRTC decisions because of the emphasis on investments in network facilities and the reliance on "market forces'' to determine pricing.

The CRTC's review of the wireless sector, which was already planned to begin this year, apparently begins with the view that smaller operators need some level of guaranteed ability to connect with the bigger networks.