Who or what is a “new entrant”?
In 2008 Industry Canada held an auction of spectrum licenses for the AWS band in Canada. The idea was to open the wireless market to new service providers. The results of that auction can be found here
While the incumbent providers (Bell, Rogers, and Telus) won the most spectrum licenses in order to expand capacity for their current network at some time in the future, several key new players also won enough spectrum to build a wireless network in Canada.
This forum is meant for discussion of these new providers, along with more established regional providers like TbayTel and MVNOs like SpeakOut Wireless. National carriers such as Rogers, Bell, and Telus have their own forums for discussion of their service and their "flanker" brands. Larger regionals SaskTel and MTS also have their own forums.
Who and where are they?
The notable players and their spectrum holdings are as follows:
Eastlink (aka Bragg): All of the Maritimes and several small Ontario cities including Sudbury.
Mobilicity (aka DAVE): Eastern Ontario (including Ottawa), Southern Ontario (including Toronto and Hamilton), Edmonton, Calgary, Red Deer, Vancouver, and Victoria.
Public Mobile (aka 6934579 Canada Inc): Eastern and Southern Quebec and Ontario.
Shaw (aka 138057 Alberta Ltd.): Sault Ste. Marie, Thunder Bay, and pretty much everywhere west of Ontario.
Videotron (aka 9193-2962 Quebec Inc): All of Quebec and Toronto, Videotron intentionally bought more spectrum than they needed in order to block out new providers like Wind and Mobilicity.
Wind Mobile (aka Globalive): All of Canada EXCEPT Quebec, see above.
Wait, I know some of those guys, they're not new at all!
Shaw, Videotron, and Eastlink are established service providers in their markets for cable and some other services, however none of them have offered their own wireless service to this point, thus they are new entrants to the wireless market. Videotron offered 2G service under their own brand but they leased use of the Rogers network, this new spectrum will be their own network.
Public, Mobilicity, and Wind are true new entrants with no reputation or established customer base in Canada.
When are they launching?
Eastlink: Eastlink has launched their wireless network in parts of Nova Scotia and PEI.
Mobilicity: Mobilicity has launched UMTS/HSPA 3G service on the AWS (1700) band in Toronto, Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, and Ottawa so far, with a roaming agreement with Rogers to cover the remainder of Canada with GSM. Mobilicity plans to be an “urban carrier” so launches in Victoria and Red Deer, as well as some expansion in Southern Ontario are also expected, though as of this date nothing has been announced.
Public Mobile: Public has launched a CDMA2000 network in Toronto and Montreal, and plans to offer service all along the 401 corridor. They have a roaming agreement with Telus for CDMA coverage. They have no further plans to expand at this time. Though their network is CDMA based, they have said that their network was built with a potential future transition to LTE in mind.
Shaw: Shaw has halted plans for their wireless network, and are building a WiFi network instead.
Videotron: Videotron has launched a UMTS/HSPA 3G network on the AWS (1700) band in Quebec. They currently cover Ottawa-Gatineau, Montreal, Quebec City, Trois-Rivieres, Granby, Drummondville, Sherbrooke, and Chicoutimi with 3G coverage, and are expanding rapidly. Within Quebec, Videotron users can roam on the Rogers 2G GSM network for no extra cost, as a part of Videotron's MNVO deal with Rogers. Videotron also has a separate roaming agreement with Rogers to cover the remainder of Canada with GSM.
Wind Mobile: Wind has launched UMTS/HSPA 3G service on the AWS (1700) band in Toronto, Hamilton, Kitchener-Waterloo, Cambridge, Guelph, St. Catharines, Niagara, Welland, London, Barrie, Ottawa, Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver, and Abbotsford. Towers are up and being tested in Barrie, Kingston, Victoria, Windsor, Peterborough, and Fort Erie. Wind has also indicated that they plan to cover Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Regina, and parts of Atlantic Canada (likely Halifax) in 2012. Beyond improving current coverage, however, nothing official has been announced. Wind intends to cover the entire country (except Quebec) eventually. Wind has a roaming agreement with Rogers to cover the remainder of Canada with GSM.
What about Chatr? Aren't they a new entrant?
Chatr is a division of Rogers and uses the Rogers network and thus is not a new entrant. Chatr specific discussion should be kept to the Rogers and Fido Wireless board.
I had heard that new entrant X has poor coverage. Is this true?
Probably. Always keep in mind that these are very new networks and the technicians who build them can't exactly see if they get signal in your kitchen. Bell, Rogers, and Telus have had years to refine their networks to the point where they are now, it will take time for the new entrants to match their coverage. In addition the AWS (1700) band that these providers have licenses for has greater difficulty with building penetration than the 850 band that Bell, Rogers, and Telus use. If you can, test the network before you subscribe to one of these new providers. Make sure they will cover where you need service.
Can I use an iPhone/iPad with any of the new entrants?
Yes, sort of. Until recently, the iPhone and iPad used the same frequency as Bell, Rogers, and Telus in Canada and AT&T in the US. As of Spring 2013, Apple launched an AWS compatible iPhone 5. It is identical to the Bell/Rogers/Telus iPhone 5, except with AWS support as well. Unfortunately, there is no easy way to tell which model is which, and older iPhone 5 units will not support AWS. None of the new entrants currently offer the iPhone, so the only way to get it is to buy it unlocked from Apple directly, and I would recommend that you test it in store with a new entrant to ensure compatibility. It is expected that the next iPhone will support AWS as well, hopefully without the confusing model differences.
Why do the handsets suck and why are they so expensive?
Mobilicity doesn't offer contracts so they don't subsidize the phones they sell. This means you pay full-price for the device up front but can leave at any time. Mobilicity sell their phones almost at cost; they are not trying to gouge you here. They don't offer much in the way of high-end devices because the up-front cost would likely spook most people. You are free to bring your own AWS compatible device and get a SIM card for it.
Wind is similar to Mobilicity, but they offer a 'Tab' system like Koodo and Virgin Mobile which allows them to subsidize the up front device costs.
Videotron offers contract based service and can subsidize handsets; they are only limited to devices available.
Often the other carriers will seek out exclusive deals with phone manufacturers for certain devices. For example, Bell came to an agreement with Samsung to be the exclusive carrier of the Samsung Galaxy S Vibrant, which was the only Galaxy S phone to be manufactured in an AWS variant. With Bell holding an exclusive on the device, the AWS carriers were unable to add a Galaxy S device to their lineup. Telus brokered a very similar deal on their Samsung Galaxy S II.
Public has a very limited range of phones compatible with their CDMA network and as a value provider they are limiting themselves to cheaper options.