Whitehorse on map of wireless rival

Whitehorse may see competition between cellular providers by 2010, if Tony Lacavera, founder of Globalive Communications, has his way.

Whitehorse may see competition between cellular providers by 2010, if Tony Lacavera, founder of Globalive Communications, has his way.

His company, which bought up airwaves during Industry Canada’s wireless spectrum auction in August, has ambitions to become Canada’s fourth national wireless company.

And Whitehorse is on its map, he confirmed in an interview Monday.

At present, cellphone service is only offered to Yukoners by Bell Mobility or Latitude Wireless, which is co-owned by Bell.

This makes Whitehorse a “small, but relatively concentrated” market waiting, as Lacavera sees it, to be cracked open.

Yukon communities outside Whitehorse do not yet fit into his company’s plan. In contrast, Latitude Wireless offers service to 17 Yukon communities.

But Globalive would offer roaming service outside Whitehorse, Lacavera said, thanks to federal rules that oblige his competitors to offer roaming to the customers of rivals.

Similarly, his company would not need to erect its own cellphone towers, because his competitors are obliged to rent space on their structures.

Nevertheless, starting a nearly national wireless service — his company has adequate airwaves in every province and territory, other than Quebec — is not cheap. Most observers say it will cost Globalive about $2 billion.

So Lacavera is scrambling to raise money.

He made one big step forward earlier this month, when Globalive announced it had partnered with Egyptian-owned Orascom Telecom, which has pledged to Globalive between $500 million to $700 million over four years.

Suddenly, a company best-known as the owner of Yak Communications, a discount long-distance phone provider, is being perceived as having the potential to shake up Canada’s cellular market.

Globalive could roll out service to five big Canadian cities by 2009, Lacavera said. Expansion into secondary markets, including Whitehorse, could happen by late 2010, he said.

It’s too early to say what rates would be charged to Yukoners, Lacavera said. But he has stated in the past his company plans to offer customers pre-paid plans at around $30 a month.

His company hopes to sign up 1.5 million customers in three years.

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