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AT&T said 'not enough room' for fourth telco in Canada: source

EXCLUSIVE: AT&T (T-N) indicated as late as mid-July that it was not interested in expanding into Canada, according to a source who attended a banking conference where the issue was discussed.

The U.S. telecom sent a "very open message to Canadian debt and equity investors---they are not coming to Canada", citing "not enough room for four players in Canada."

In a confidential memo obtained by BNN, the highly-placed telecom industry source wrote that AT&T had looked at Wind Mobile and Mobilicity "in detail" and passed.

Last week, according to another source close to the situation, BNN reported that at least three foreign telcos aside from Verizon have looked at bidding for wireless spectrum in Canada.

Those three companies are said to have been AT&T, Vodafone and Norway's Telenor.

Telenor is a 33-percent owner (with 43-percent voting rights) in Vimpelcom, the company that owns Wind Mobile.

Both AT&T and Telenor declined to comment on the BNN report last week.

A third person knowledgeable about the matter says an overseas foreign telco inquired about the upcoming spectrum auction, but was counseled not to bother. That source declined to identify the company.

For much of the summer, it was believed U.S. carrier Verizon was interested in bidding for wireless spectrum in Canada in the auction which will be held in January.

However, when the company announced it was purchasing Vodafone's stake in Verizon Wireless for $130 billion US, Verizon's CEO poured cold water on reports of the company's interest in Canada saying they had been overblown.

The Harper government is on record as wanting a fourth major competitor in wireless markets across the country. The so-called incumbents---Rogers (RCI.B-T), Telus (T-T) and BCE (BCE-T) launched an aggressive public campaign against a possible incursion by Verizon.

The deadline to register for the 700 megahertz spectrum auction is today, September 17.

Wind Mobile has confirmed it will bid in the auction.

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