"Now we're ready for action; now we can make it happen, " Globalive chairman Anthony Lacavera said Friday in Toronto after the decision by Industry Minister Tony Clement overturned a CRTC ruling that blocked the company from launching in November.
Mr. Lacavera said the federal government made the right decision in giving his company, which will operate under the Wind Mobile brand, the green light after the CRTC said Globalive wasn't Canadian enough.
"We are going to launch as early as next week. The last six weeks have not been easy for us, " he said.
Mr. Lacavera had 800 employees in Toronto and Calgary who had finished training and were waiting to start the company's wireless business, but ended up doing volunteer work while collecting their salaries after the launch was put on hold and Globalive awaited word on its future.
Wind Mobile CEO Ken Campbell says Globalive won't charge its customers system access or 911 fees. And while it will not offer Apple's touchscreen iPhone - available from competitors Rogers Communications Inc. (TSX:RCI.B), Bell Canada (TSX:BCE) and Telus Corp. (TSX:T) - it will support the BlackBerry and other smartphones.
The Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission had initially turned down Globalive's attempts to set up shop on the grounds the company is heavily backed by a foreign firm, Orascom Telecom Holding of Egypt.
Orascom holds 65 per cent of parent company Globalive Holdings, while CEO Mr. Lacavera owns the rest. The Egyptian-based telecom also holds much of the company's debt, a sticking point for the CRTC.
But Mr. Clement argued that most of Globalive's shareholders are Canadian and the wireless company, based in Toronto, should be considered Canadian. He said he consulted with provincial governments and industry players before overturning the CRTC ruling.
Mr. Clement also said no additional changes would be required to Globalive's structure and shareholder arrangements.
He specified that the debt financing provided to Globalive by a foreign lender, as well as its four directors on the company board, do not contravene Canadian ownership requirements.
"We came to the conclusion the lender had influence over the company, which is perfectly acceptable under our legislation, (but) it did not have control over the company, " Mr. Clement said.
Globalive's arrival is expected to put more pressure on consumer prices across the industry as it heralds the entry of more players into a market opened up through an auction of wireless spectrum in 2008.
Telus, which along with Rogers and Bell lobbied hard against Globalive's bid, said it was disappointed with what it's calling a precedent-setting decision and doesn't believe that Globalive is a Canadian-owned and controlled company.
"It has established an enormous precedent going forward as to how people are supposed to interpret our Canadian ownership laws, " said Michael Hennessy, senior vice-president of regulatory and government affairs.
Mr. Hennessy said Telus is going to "sit back " and watch how the decision unfolds.
"This sets such a big precedent for so many federally regulated sectors that this is no longer just about us, " he said. "This could be enormous from airlines to banks to telecom to broadcasting and merely saying that it's not precedential doesn't necessarily have any meaning in law. "
Bell also expressed discontent.
"It's disappointing as we think Globalive quite clearly does not meet the requirements for Canadian control, " said spokeswoman Jacqueline Michelis. "We'll be taking a close look at the reasoning behind this decision. "
Rogers reacted by saying it believes competition is good for Canadian consumers.
"We've always thrived in a competitive environment and we're ready to meet the competition head on, " said spokeswoman Odette Coleman.
Law professor Michael Geist of the University of Ottawa said the government came down on the side of increased competition.
"It's a big win for consumers, " said Mr. Geist, who also holds the Canada Research Chair in Internet and e-commerce law.
The big three players, Rogers, Bell and Telus, recognize that they're going to face more competition, he said.
"While some of the big three have started to make some changes, the fact that there will be another player offering up an alternative is bound to shake things up. "
Deloitte Canada analyst Duncan Stewart also said the federal government wants more competition in the cellphone industry. Globalive is probably the new competitor the established players fear the most, said Mr. Stewart.
"Globalive, being back in the game, is the one most likely to have effect on the marketplace, " he said, adding that consumers could see significant price cuts.
Aside from Globalive's Wind network, DAVE Wireless and Public Mobile are expected to launch their services in the coming months, while Quebec-based Videotron (TSX:QBR.B) is expected to get into the cellphone business in that province and in parts of eastern Ontario next year.
The CRTC reviewed Globalive's corporate structure last spring and decided its operations in Canada would contravene the Telecommunications Act provisions that companies be controlled by Canadian interests. That decision flew in the face of an earlier review by Industry Canada that gave the company a licence to set up here, in the interest of competition.
Mr. Clement stressed that Friday's announcement was not giving Globalive special treatment.
"Let me state for the record, government is not removing, reducing, bending or creating an exception to Canadian ownership and control requirements in the telecommunications and broadcast industries, " he said.
Shares in the major telecom companies dropped in morning trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange. Rogers shares fell $1.73 or five per cent, Bell Canada parent BCE's stock was off about three per cent at $27.60 and Telus stock edged down about two per cent to $32.97.
By LuAnn LaSalle, with files from Diana Mehta and Sunny Freeman, The Canadian Press