A decision by Industry Canada to not mandate digital roaming for rural wireless operators with national or larger regional carriers is good for the industry, national players tell Report on Wireless. The decision (DGTP-006-05) promotes digital roaming in rural parts of the country by giving special consideration to rural carriers in their negotiations with their larger brethren. Dawn Hunt, VP of regulatory affairs at Rogers Wireless Inc., says the department made the right choice in not mandating digital roaming. "I think Industry Canada struck the right balance between the needs of existing carriers and in particular what the rural carriers needed in terms of initially starting service in their specific areas, and then providing them with the opportunity, the encouragement, if they wanted a roaming agreement to go out and do that," she states. A spokesperson from Telus Mobility echoes similar sentiments, noting that it was a good decision from Industry Canada to not mandate digital roaming between the national or larger regional carriers and the rural operators. However, not all wireless operators were on the same page during the consultation in 2003-2004.  Microcell Telecommunications, which has since been acquired by Rogers Wireless, wanted the department to mandate digital roaming among all carriers. It believed a lack of available 800 MHz spectrum required such a move. Many argued during the consultation process that affording digital roaming to certain companies may in fact distort competition in urban areas. Hunt says the concern was the move could "set a dangerous precedent" in the market in advantaging one carrier over another.  The Ontario Telecommunications Association (OTA) noted at the time of the consultation that if all Canadians were to participate and benefit from the advances in mobile wireless technologies, then Industry Canada would have to adopt a policy with that goal in mind. It would be "incumbent upon Canada’s spectrum policy that all Canadians must be afforded access to the all-important first link – the first mile – beyond their rural or remote community," read its comments. The association said the best way to achieve this would be require national or larger regional players to sign digital roaming agreements with rural operators. The OTA called on the department "to bind national and regional carriers to enter into such arrangements through the imposition of a new condition of licence on the recalcitrant carriers."  Mike Andrews, president of Amtelecom Inc. and chair of the OTA’s wireless committee is pleased with the decision in that it gives OTA members the leverage to get digital roaming agreements signed. But, he says, the association would have preferred mandated digital roaming. "We’re very encouraged that the notice addresses from our perspective doesn’t quite go far enough. It doesn’t establish roaming requirements as conditions of licence which we would really have preferred," he tells Report on Wireless.  The department ruled the public interest would be best served by its policy decision. "Special consideration is justified in cases where the rural carriers do not compete with the national or regional carriers in their network serving territories," reads the notice.