Innovation Canada (ISED) released the results of its 2018 residual spectrum auction Friday, with Cogeco Inc. ending up as the big spender. The Montreal-based telecom picked up seven paired and 16 unpaired licenses in the 2300 MHz and 2500 MHz bands in its operating areas of eastern Ontario and southern Quebec. The company shelled out $24.3 million, according to ISED’s website, covering a population area of 5.41 million. It previously won 12 bids worth $25,000 in the 2300 MHz and 3500 MHz residual auction beginning in 2004, the ISED website said. In a Friday press release, Cogeco said that a “wireless offering would be complementary to Cogeco Connexion’s current offering to its customers. This is a first positive step in the exploration of our options in the mobile wireless market.” Cogeco’s entry into the wireless market has been a target of speculation for years, and the company was tight-lipped about its intentions for this spectrum auction. In the past, it has maintained that it would enter the mobile market as a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO), and that it it would enter the wireless space if it could do in a way that would be profitable for the company. The CRTC decided not to mandate MVNO access in March. While the company previously said it wasn’t interested in building mobile wireless infrastructure, CEO Louis Audet said earlier this year it would consider operating as a facilities-based carrier if the conditions were right, including if the company could get spectrum in the areas where it has wireline infrastructure. Last week, Cogeco announced a new CEO, Philippe Jetté, who is expected to take over in the fall. Other big winners of the auction include Shaw Communications Inc.’s Freedom Mobile and Xplornet Communications Inc., who spent $8.64 million and $8.24 for 11 and 16 licenses, respectively. Freedom increased its 2500 MHz spectrum holdings in Alberta and B.C., while Xplornet also purchased blocks in the 2500 MHz range, adding in Eastern Canada as well as the prairies. Telus Corp., Ecotel Inc. and Iris Technologies Inc. also participated. Iris, which has the same ownership structure as Iristel Inc., according to Samer Bishay, CEO of both companies, nabbed $100,607 worth of 700 MHz spectrum for Yukon. Telus added coverage in New Brunswick and Northern Ontario, for which it spent $907,000. Ecotel purchased two 700 MHz and six 2500 MHz licences for $1.24 million in regions where it will continue building out its LTE network for industrial applications in rural communities, according to the comments it submitted to ISED before the auction. CORRECTION: This story initially reported that Cogeco purchased 23 unpaired licences.