Wind Mobile Plays Kingmaker in Rogers-Mobilicity Acquisition

Wind Mobile played the kingmaker in Rogers Communications Inc.’s C$440 million ($355 million) takeover of bankrupt carrier Mobilicity and won itself a swath of new wireless spectrum in the process, according to its chief executive officer.

Alek Krstajic, a telecommunications industry veteran who took over the top job at Wind in March, said he partnered with Rogers instead of Telus Corp. because Rogers was able to hand over more spectrum to Wind than Telus as part of the deal.

“Telus wasn’t willing to give up enough, Rogers was. Rogers prevailed,” Krstajic said by phone. Telus spokesman Shawn Hall declined to comment.

Rogers needed to hand over the wireless airwaves to Wind to convince regulators that the deal wouldn’t hurt competition. The Canadian government has worked for six years to increase competition by giving small players preferential access to spectrum.

Rogers also brought 16 spectrum licenses it bought from Shaw Communications Inc. to the table. With the 10 licenses from Mobilicity, it will transfer 26 spectrum licenses to Wind, according to a government announcement approving the deal. Rogers is gaining spectrum in British Columbia, Alberta and Southern Ontario, Rogers said in a statement.

“We got the spectrum we needed where we needed it for our customers and this keeps Rogers in the leading competitive position across the country,” Guy Laurence, Rogers’ chief executive officer, said in the statement.

Limited Coverage

Even with the new spectrum, Wind has far less clout than its big competitors. Its wireless coverage is limited to major urban networks like Vancouver and Toronto, and it pays larger carriers when its users roam outside its network. It’s won 800,000 users since starting in 2009, compared with Rogers’ roughly 9.5 million.

For now, Wind is focusing on finding an equipment supplier to help it build out its network and getting newer iPhones into its stores, Krstajic said. It could also revisit discussions about partnering with Quebecor Inc., he said.

“Whether we’re 1, 2, 3, or 4 million subscribers, whatever that absolute number is, it’ll represent some market share,” Krstajic said. “We are going to take a bigger piece of the pie, I don’t know how big a piece yet.”