In the previous millennium, there were 58 telephone companies in Canada.
The largest telephone companies were part of a national alliance called Stentor Canadian Network Management, the “Stentor Alliance” or simply, “Stentor”.
These companies were:
British Columbia Telephone Company (BCTel)
Alberta Government Telephones (AGT)
Saskatchewan Telecommunications (SaskTel)
Manitoba Telecom Services (MTS)
The New Brunswick Telephone Company Limited (NBTel)
Maritime Telephone and Telegraph Company, Limited (MT&T)
The Island Telephone Company Limited (Island Tel)
Newfoundland Telephone Company Limited (NewTel).
The remaining companies were called independents because they were not full members of Stentor. There were 30 in Ontario, 16 in Quebec, one in BC and one in the North-West Territories.
These companies provided both local and long-distance telecommunication services, as well as cellular service through affiliates, under tight federal regulation.
The Stentor Alliance was terminated on December 31, 1999. In its place, a consolidation centered around two main players, Bell and TELUS, has taken place.
Bell Canada historically provided service in Ontario and Quebec, and more recently controlled Aliant Telecom, which was a merger of the four maritime telephone companies.
In July 2006, Aliant’s wireline operations, Bell Canada rural wireline operations plus Bell Nordiq were combined into an income trust called Bell Aliant Regional Communications (BARC), with about 3.4 million local access lines and over 400,000 high-speed Internet subscribers in six provinces. At the same time, Bell Canada acquired Aliant Mobility’s wireless operations.
Bell Canada is currently composed of Bell Mobility plus the remainder of the wireline operations, concentrated in the densely-populated Quebec city to Windsor corridor.
Using collocations and their own fiber, Bell provides services to business customers in Vancouver, Calgary and other Canadian cities where it is not the incumbent telephone company.
BCTel, AGT, Ed Tel and Quebec Tel merged to form TELUS, providing virtually all landline service in BC and Alberta, plus service to some 443,000 customers in Quebec.
Using a mixture of POPs, collocation and subcontracts, TELUS provides service to business customers in Toronto, Montreal and other cities where Bell Canada formerly held a monopoly.
Ownership of the telephone companies is varied.
BCE of Montreal, a publicly-owned holding company, owns Bell Canada and BARC.
Verizon (through its acquisition of GTE) originally owned half of BCTel and half of Quebec Tel through a holding company in Montreal. This was divested in 2005, sold to TELUS, also a publicly-owned holding company.
SaskTel is a provincial crown corporation, as were AGT and MTS until they were privatized.
Competitive Inter-Exchange Carriers exist, but find their profit margins slim due to the geographical nature of the network and strong competition.
The main competitor traces its roots from CNCP Telecommunications, to Unitel, a joint venture of Rogers Cable and CNCP, to AT&T Canada, which sold its residential long-distance voice services to Primus then changed its name to Allstream, which was then acquired by MTS.
A number of resellers including Call-Net, Lightel, fonorola, Group Telecom and others have attempted to enter the business, but were not successful and were mostly consolidated under Call-Net, a subsidiary of Sprint Canada.
Sprint Canada provided both competitive long-distance services and local service to some 200,000 homes as a CLEC. Sprint Canada was acquired by Rogers Communications Inc.
360networks attempted to provide bulk fiber-based services, but went bankrupt and sold most of their assets to Bell Canada.
The main wireless carriers are affiliates of the phone companies (“wireline” carriers), including TELUS, which acquired Clearnet, and Bell, which acquired Aliant Mobility, as well as Rogers, which acquired Cantel and Microcell.