With the ink barely dry on Manitoba Telecom Services Inc.’s (MTS) proposed acquisition of Allstream Corp., questions are now surfacing about MTS Mobility’s future role in the Bell Wireless Alliance (BWA). While representatives for MTS maintain the status quo will rule the day for at least the time being, analysts say that could change - especially if the company decides to take a serious kick at Microcell Telecommunications Inc.’s tires. Ian Grant, managing director of the SeaBoard Group, forecasts that if the power brokers at MTS continue to show the gusto they’ve shown to arrange this agreement, they might also explore future synergies between Microcell and MTS/Allstream. "I think it might be the next thing on the list," he tells Report on Wireless. "They’ve got a lot to digest now and I think that Microcell management has some stuff they want to prove to themselves, if nobody else, that they weren’t in Rip van Winkle land as they went for a couple of beers during the nuclear winter."During a March 18 conference call announcing the acquisition, MTS president and CEO Bill Fraser said the company doesn’t foresee too many changes to its relationship with the Bell family of companies in the near term. "TELUS and Bell currently compete but they also have commercial agreements in terms of roaming and in terms of sharing network infrastructure. That would make sense in Manitoba as well. Otherwise they would have a huge investment to make to get into that market that I would doubt that you could ever do a business case on. We would anticipate that those things would be handled in a business-like manner and similar to what’s been done in the past," he said during the conference call. MTS Mobility has long enjoyed a special relationship with Bell Mobility and the other BWA members due to their legacy involvement in Stentor (the former consortium of provincial telcos). But many are saying the company has to expand beyond its provincial borders (see chart for MTS Mobility subscriber growth). Grant says a union with Microcell makes sense, but cautions MTS not to make any rash decisions. "You might want to find a way of looking to transition your customer base to GSM, but if you stall and wait for about 18 to 24 months, as the next series of standards comes out which are supposed to merge GSM and CDMA, you might be able to avoid that small $1.2 billion transition by studying it a little more. "I think that for the sake of prudence it doesn’t really make a lot of sense to go out and swap all those phones out right now. (This) is another reason why if you postpone the decision for a year, you make a bid for Microcell April/May next year, that all happens and takes place in terms of next year by Thanksgiving and then you promise the CRTC that you’ll divest yourself of one half of it and now you’re looking at 2006 and the engineers may have done something." The Yankee Group also notes that MTS should look to expand on a national scale. "MTS enjoys a dominant position in Manitoba, but lacks a presence outside the province. Explore expansion of wireless service to a national footprint," reads a March 19 research brief. Rumours have circulated in the past that Allstream (then known as AT&T Canada) was interested in acquiring Microcell (RoW, March 31/03). But it now makes even more sense if the new entity is to effectively compete in all areas of communications against national telcos such as Bell Canada and TELUS Communications, and cable TV and wireless provider Rogers Communications Inc. Given Allstream’s entry into the small- and medium-sized business market and the consumer market through its joint venture with Microcell subsidiary Inukshuk Internet Inc. and NR Communications, a national wireless telephony business would be a natural fit rounding out the MTS/Allstream operation.