Canadas telecom providers will be pushed to slash wireless data plan prices by 25 per cent from 2020 benchmark rates over the next two years or risk facing other measures to improve competition in the sector, Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains announced Thursday.
The decision to use early 2020 levels as a baseline for the reductions could put BCE Inc., Rogers Communications Inc. and Telus Corp. in a tight spot because the new benchmarks are substantially lower than what the industry was hoping for.
In a speech in Scarborough Thursday, Bains said the Big Three wireless providers will be expected to slash prices for cell phone data plans between 2 to 6 GB from early 2020 levels.
The government provided a chart to journalists showing current benchmarks at $50 for a 2 GB plan, $55 for a 4 GB plan, and $60 for a 6 GB plan. 
Bains expects all those prices to come down by 25 per cent within two years, but that several options were in play if the telecom companies dont play ball.
In an interview with the Financial Post, Bains said that the government might move more toward forcing the big wireless carriers to offer wholesale access to their networks for smaller mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs).
If they are unable to hit those targets, we will move ahead with additional competitive measures like how we deploy future spectrum and how we look at bringing in new entrants, possibly through mobile virtual network operators, Bains said.
Liberal policy documents released during the election last year suggested a benchmark price for a phone plan with 2 GB of data would be around $75. 
Based on those campaign documents, Telus has already been using a True North Affordability logo on various phone plans, to indicate theyre already 25 per cent below the campaign target.
A man uses his cell phone in Toronto.Peter J. Thompson/National Post files
The Liberal promise to reduce cell phone bills has received pushback from the big telcos. In the course of early 2020, the big three have warned they will cut their investment spending if the government mandates MVNOs.
Over the course of 2019, Rogers, Bell and Telus all introduced unlimited plans which cost more money, but have a lower per-gigabyte cost, because those plans come with higher data allotments.
Bains said a 25 per cent reduction based on the new benchmarks is what matters now.
If they achieve those targets they can brag about that as much as they want, Bains said.
Bains said Statistics Canada will also collect data from phone companies and publish quarterly reports on phone plan prices, so the public can track prices over the next two years.
Canadians will be able to see in the two to six gigabyte space for each plan with each company in each region, where those price points were at the beginning of 2020 and where they will be at the end of two years, Bains aid.
As part of Bains speech Thursday, he also announced new details of the upcoming auction for mid-band wireless spectrum. 
The 3500mhz band is a highly anticipated auction, because the frequency is seen as a key asset for deploying 5G networks in Canada.
The details are extremely complex, because Ottawa will be selling licences for a 200mhz band of the electromagnetic spectrum, divided up into 10mhz chunks, in 172 geographic areas across the country.
As part of the rules, the government is setting aside 50mhz, which the big three telcos cant bid on, which is intended to allow smaller players to get a piece. 
Bains said fostering more competition is part of the governments push to bring down wireless prices.
Were seeing prices are 45 per cent lower where were seeing strong regional players, he said.
Financial Post
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