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Canada’s Telecom Regulator Sets New Rules For Virtual Wireless Networks

 |  October 20, 2022

The CRTC has published new rules governing cellular networks known as Mobile Virtual Network Operators, or MVNOs, rules the telecom regulator says it hopes will provide greater competition in the wireless market.

True MVNOs are cellular networks that have no infrastructure or spectrum of their own, but simply resell wholesale access to incumbent networks to consumers, typically for much cheaper.

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Mint Mobile, owned by Canadian actor and entrepreneur Ryan Reynolds, is an example of a US MVNO, which sells unlimited data, talk and texting plans within the US for $30 a month. The company has no cellphone towers or spectrum rights of its own, but simply buys “space” on other companies’ cellular networks and resells access to it to consumers.

Last year, Canada’s telecom regulator established a policy to set ground rules for MVNOs wishing to operate in Canada. Under those new rules, a company like Mint still can’t operate in Canada because the CRTC requires any MVNO to have its own network somewhere in Canada, in order to piggyback on existing networks in the rest of the country.