Here are some highlights and other Public Mobile appearances in the public eye.
Wireless start-ups drop the gloves
Chris Sorensen, Toronto Star , June 18, 2009
After months of promises and carefully worded statements, the country's three newest wireless companies have taken the gloves off as they prepare to go head-to-head for a slice of Canada's $12.7 billion wireless sector.
During a telecom conference at the Toronto Congress Centre yesterday, the chief executives of Public Mobile, Globalive Wireless and DAVE Wireless traded barbs as they attempted to explain why their respective business plans stood the greatest chance of success.
All three plan to launch services in various cities across the country later this year or early 2010.
Alek Krstajic, the CEO of Public Mobile, had the sharpest words for the other two challengers, arguing that their business models were too similar to that of the established operators, Rogers Communications Inc., Bell Canada Inc. and Telus Corp.
He predicted the other two challengers would not be around in 12 months as the incumbents fight to hang on to market share.
"They are huge and they are not to be underestimated," Krstajic, a former executive at both Rogers and Bell, said during a panel discussion at the Canadian Telecom Summit.
Meanwhile, he said Public Mobile is proposing to go after a segment of the market – the roughly 30 per cent of Canadians who don't currently own a cellphone – the incumbents have so far deemed unprofitable.
"At the end of the day, my business plan doesn't poke them in the eye."
The key to Public Mobile's strategy is building an ultra low-cost network stretching from Windsor to Quebec City on a chunk of orphaned spectrum called the G-block. Public Mobile's U.S. backers purchased the airwaves in last year's federal government spectrum auction for $52 million, about one-fifth of what others paid in the same markets.
Not surprisingly, Krstajic's rivals disagreed with his analysis, noting he is proposing to build a business using a slice of airwaves virtually every other big carrier in the world has ignored.
Dave Dobbin, CEO of DAVE Wireless (Data & Audio Visual Enterprises Wireless Inc.), said a study he commissioned showed G-block spectrum wasn't viable over the long term. DAVE's backers, which include an investment firm headed by XM Satellite Radio Canada founder John Bitove, paid $243 million for spectrum in major cities across the country, including Toronto.
Dobbin, a former president of Toronto Hydro Telecom, added that Bell and Telus wouldn't hesitate to chase Public Mobile into the low end of the market using older CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) networks as a "fighting network," while focusing on high-end customers once a joint plan to overlay a GSM-based high-speed network is completed by next year.
Globalive CEO Anthony Lacavera at times appeared to be calling for a truce. "The new entrants need to work together," he said several times during the discussion. "It's not going to be an easy go for any of us."
Of the three, Globalive has the biggest plans. Backed by Egypt's Orascom Telecom Holding SAE, the company paid $442 million for wireless spectrum in markets across the country except Quebec, and is proposing to launch two different wireless brands – one will take the name of Globalive's Yak long-distance service – in a bid to capture different market segments.
Lacavera has said the carrier will appeal to the price-conscious and those who want higher-end devices such as Apple Inc.'s iPhone and Research In Motion Ltd.'s BlackBerry devices. He also wants to offer customers the opportunity to bundle wireless with other services such as home phone and Internet.
Globalive's business plan calls for snaring as many as 1.5 million customers in the first three years.