Craig McCaw invests in Microcell as part of equity offeringMicrocell Telecommunications Inc. has announced that American telecom pioneer and industry veteran Craig McCaw might chip in an additional $50 million as part of the company’s preliminary prospectus for an equity offering of up to $100 million. Under terms of the prospectus, McCaw’s private holding company COM Canada LLC has agreed to purchase a portion or all of the non-voting shares not otherwise purchased under the rights offering. Canada’s smallest wireless operator, which currently has 22,598,184 shares outstanding, will issue an additional 4,519,636 voting and non-voting shares as part of this offering.  Industry Canada announces review of 5 GHz bandIndustry Canada has launched a consultation process on allocation changes and revisions to the 5 GHz spectrum band. The decision follows recommendations made at last year’s World Radiocommunication Conference (RoW, July 9/03). The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) proposed last May to open up a larger portion of the 5 GHz band for licence-exempt devices (RoW, May 27/03). Both Canada and the United States have allocated the 5.8 GHz range for licence-free operations. Spectrum in the 5 GHz range can be used to provide a number of services and applications including broadband connectivity and radio local area networks. Regulators both in the U.S. and Canada have been grappling with spectrum management issues. One way to improve the process and free up resources is to allocate more spectrum on a licence-free basis, a FCC representative said at last year’s Spectrum 20/20 conference in Ottawa. Report on Wireless will provide further information on the consultation in an upcoming issue. Bell, Sprint PCS launch interoperable SMSBell Mobility and Sprint PCS have launched an interoperable picture messaging service, commonly referred to as MMS. The service allows their respective subscribers to send and receive picture messages, which can include sounds and text. Building on North American-wide SMS interoperability, the two companies are the first in North America to do so.Camera phones are expected to outsell digital cameras in 2004, according to research firm IDC. The firm also notes that 80 million camera phones have been sold to date, including six million in the United States. Figures for the Canadian market are currently unavailable. The Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association tells Report on Wireless that formal discussions to expand interoperability to all carriers in North America haven’t yet begun, but that continent-wide interoperability is the ultimate goal. RoW will continue to follow this issue. Check back for more information in future issues. TWU loses appeal over contempt of courtThe Federal Court of Appeal has ruled against the Telecommunications Workers Union (TWU) in its appeal of an earlier decision that found Telus Mobility to not be in contempt of court. The February 9 ruling reaffirms a Dec. 2, 2002 Federal Court of Canada ruling, which stated Telus Mobility was not in contempt of court when it implemented the Apollo.02 subscriber activation system (RoW, Dec. 20/02). The TWU later won a right to appeal the Federal Court of Canada decision (RoW, March 18/03). The TWU fought the case on the grounds that use of the Apollo.02 software contravened a 1992 letter of agreement between the TWU and Telus Mobility that said Telus Mobility’s computers used for subscriber data input and activation would remain under the control of the company and not independent dealers. Telus Mobility countered by saying it didn’t matter how mundane or minute the task, unionized activation agents were still required to process a new subscriber account. The Apollo.02 subscriber activation software requires the activation agent to click the mouse to activate a new subscriber's account. Hennessy doesn’t mince words over Sabia’s numbersMichael Hennessy, acting president of the Canadian Cable Television Association, didn’t waste any time responding to BCE Inc. CEO Michael Sabia’s claim that since only 81% of local calling traffic travels across its traditional wireline network local telephony should be deregulated. Sabia said in a February 25 speech to the Canadian Chamber of Commerce in Ottawa that it is a myth that 97% of local calling traffic goes over its wireline network and that increased substitution by wireless is the reason it is only 81%. What Sabia doesn’t mention, Hennessy says, is that BCE has 3.3 million wireless customers in Ontario and Quebec and 1.9 million Internet subscribers. “I think the real critical thing here is that 97% of residential subscribers are still paying $25 every month for local service from Bell. So they are not substituting … What they are really trying to do is to twist the number to somehow hide the fact that 97% in anybody’s book is still a monopoly. In terms of the residential market, there is just no way to dodge that fact,” he tells Report on Wireless. Motorola says push-to-talk to be standard featureA senior executive at Motorola Canada Inc. believes that the push-to-talk (PTT), walkie-talkie feature of Telus Mobility’s Mike network will become a standard feature from a wide variety of service providers. Mike Hortie, VP and GM of Motorola Canada's personal communications sector, tells Report on Wireless that he believes PTT services will be ubiquitous in the future. Bell Mobility and Rogers Wireless Inc. have already indicated they will launch PTT services. Hortie wouldn’t say whether the company is working with Bell or Rogers, but said Motorola helped Verizon Wireless launch its PTT service. More information from an in-depth interview with Hortie will be available in an upcoming issue of Report on Wireless. Possible divestiture of AT&T Wireless assets by Cingular may have impact on Rogers WirelessIn a February 17 filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Cingular Wireless and AT&T Wireless said they may divest of US$8 billion worth of assets to help convince the Federal Communications Commission to approve the Cingular/AT&T merger. It’s unknown at this point whether that could include a sale of AT&T Wireless’ 34% stake in Rogers Wireless Inc. Rogers Wireless has first right of offer and negotiation for AT&T Wireless’ stake. The Toronto-based wireless carrier has refused to speculate on what AT&T Wireless might do with its stake. RoW will be following this issue closely over the coming weeks and months and will provide further information when it becomes available. INTERNATIONAL NEWSVerizon Wireless takes aim at Nextel’s public safety proposalVerizon Wireless has urged the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to reject a US$850-million proposal by Nextel Communications to help improve public safety radio communications. The proposal would see Nextel vacate portions of the 800 MHz band to make way for public safety networks in exchange for bandwidth in the 1900 MHz range. Verizon, the second-largest carrier in the U.S. if a proposed merger of Cingular Wireless and AT&T Wireless is approved, says this is simply a cash grab on Nextel’s part and that the FCC can accomplish the same goal of freeing bandwidth in less expensive fashion.