07.29.21 / news

Iristel Wins 5G Spectrum for Rural Canadians


Iristel Wins 8 Blocks of 3500 MHz Spectrum for 5G Rollout for Rural Canadians

Malicious CRA audit limits the facilities-based carrier’s capacity to invest further in the wireless auction to help bridge the digital divide for rural Canadians, especially for Indigenous communities

CORNER BROOK, NL and WHITEHORSE, YK – July 29, 2021 – Despite being held back by a groundless and drawn-out Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) hindrance, Iristel Inc. has been awarded eight blocks of the coveted mid-band spectrum at 3500 Megahertz by the Federal Government.

“While we’re delighted with these eight blocks, the CRA has deprived us of potentially landing 80 other blocks that would serve hundreds more rural communities, many of which are Indigenous,” says Samer Bishay, President and CEO of both Iristel and Ice Wireless. “We laud Ottawa for setting aside spectrum for competitors by preventing the Big Three wireless oligarchs from bidding on it, but we question the CRA’s draconian tactics. On the one hand, the Federal Government is wisely setting policy to bolster competition, and on the other hand, its tax department is doing the opposite.” 

Spectrum is radio frequencies needed for smartphones. It is divided into three ranges: low-band, mid-band and high-band. The higher the range, the more devices it can handle; however, it has a smaller coverage area. The lower the range, the fewer devices it can handle but the coverage area is larger. Iristel already holds licenses for multiple low-band blocks of spectrum in Yukon, Northwest Territories, Nunavut, rural Ontario, rural Quebec and all of Newfoundland and Labrador.

This mid-band spectrum at 3500 MHz is ideal for 5G, the critical ingredient to launching the economy into the future with mega-fast data download speeds. Iristel paid for and was awarded a block in western Newfoundland, one in Labrador, two in Nunavat, two in Northwest Territories and two in Yukon.

“All through the pandemic, the CRA has waged an unjustified war against us and withheld more than $80 million of our money. This currently tied up money in the CRA’s coffers could have been used to invest more heavily in spectrum to bring stronger competition and affordability to rural communities in Canada,” Mr. Bishay says.

Iristel and its wireless subsidiaries reach 1.2 million Canadians and the 3500 MHz spectrum will dramatically increase network capacity. With 5G, rural tourist operators, retailers, business consultants and more will potentially have the same digital opportunities as urban Canadians. Also, with 15 million Iristel telephone numbers in service, every Canadian has used Iristel’s advanced Internet-based telecommunications networks in some form.

Iristel is a proven Canadian telecom player with more than 20 years in business, not some fly-by-night operator that the CRA should punitively withhold its money as the case grinds on for years.

“We’ve written senior government officials, including Industry Minister François-Philippe Champagne, Revenue Minister Diane Lebouthillier and Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland, to outline our case and to seek the release of our funds from the CRA, which have been held almost two years,” Mr. Bishay says. “We’re not looking for political favours, merely fairness. In the letter, I called upon the Government of Canada to respond positively and promptly for the benefit of all Canadians to demonstrate the government's commitment to genuine competition, diversification and fairness in the telecommunications sector.”

In the 2021 budget, the Federal Government said Ottawa will spend $2.75 billion to bring more rural Canadians high-speed Internet with the ultimate goal of making high-speed access available to all of Canada by 2030. If the CRA was not holding Iristel’s money, the company could have bid on many more 3500 MHz spectrum licenses in Northern and Eastern Quebec, Newfoundland, New Brunswick and rural Ontario. 

About Iristel

Iristel is Canada’s fastest-growing Competitive Local Exchange Carrier providing innovative communication services that are changing how consumers and businesses communicate. Founded in 1999, Markham-based Iristel operates Canada’s largest facilities-based local voice network extending Coast-to-Coast-to-Coast. It also owns Ice Wireless, an LTE-A carrier with operations in Canada’s northern territories and Quebec. Iristel also owns brands such as Sugar Mobile, an Over-the-Top (OTT) app where phone calls and text messages can be transmitted through data, and Télécommunications de l’Est (TDE), a company that operates a Nomad mobile network, a unique two-way radio digital trunking network built to meet the specific needs of Canada’s rural regions.

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