Sugar Mobile, the small startup provider offering wireless plans for as little as $19 a month that was effectively given a death sentence by the CRTC, is not quite dead yet.
And the fact that it still exists — even on life-support and as a shell of its former self — should give hope to Canadians desperate for more competition in the country’s wireless sector, according to industry analysts.
“We’re operating in a handcuffed mode right now,” said Sugar Mobile’s president and CEO, Samer Bishay.
“But I believe we’ve kind of set the stage for what’s coming next. And because we already have everything kind of ready to go, the minute we hear something positive, we’re going to go full throttle again.”
Launched in early 2016, Sugar Mobile appeared to have found a back door into the Canadian mobile market, which has long been largely closed to new entrants that don’t own their own cellular networks.
Sugar Mobile is owned by Ice Wireless, a small mobile network operator and telecommunications company based in Canada’s North.
As the owner of a mobile network, Ice Wireless has reciprocal roaming agreements with the big Canadian telcos, whose customers roam on the Ice Wireless network in northern cities like Whitehorse, Yellowknife and Inuvik.
Through its Sugar Mobile brand, Ice offered a Canada-wide, Wi-Fi-first mobile service, relying on those reciprocal agreements to offer its customers access to Rogers’ 3G networks outside of Ice Wireless territory.
But Rogers filed a complaint with the CRTC, saying Sugar was essentially selling retail access to Rogers’ network and arguing that was in violation of their roaming agreement.
The CRTC agreed, ordering Sugar off Rogers’ network in March and all but shutting down the company.
“I think it was about 80 per cent or 90 per cent of our subscribers that had to get off.” said Bishay. “It was painful, man.”
Biding its time
The only reason Sugar…