Today, the CRTC determined it necessary to regulate the wholesale roaming rates of Canada’s three largest cell phone carriers in order to foster greater competition in the Canadian mobile market.

This mandate comes on the heels of a public hearing held on the issue in Gatineau, Quebec.

The Commission directed Bell Mobility, Rogers and Telus to limit the rates they charge smaller carriers, such as Wind, to use their networks when their customers travel outside of a home network area and have to piggyback on a larger network’s area for service.  Conversely, the CRTC also mandated that the Harper government repeal legislation that currently limits what smaller companies can charge the large ones to use their wireless networks.

While it’s unclear what the decisions will mean for customers of Bell Mobility, Rogers and Telus in terms of roaming charges, according to officials it may result in cheaper roaming costs for customers of smaller service providers, down the road.

Last year, budget measures set in place by the Harper government put a cap on wholesale roaming costs, and forced major players to charge smaller ones no more than what they charged their retail customers. CRTC chairman Jean-Pierre Blais said that, in effect, this legislation failed to take regional differences into consideration and that wholesale rate caps were hurting smaller companies and stifling competition, especially in locations where major service providers did not have a strong presence.

Officials have said they expect rates for GSM and LTE services now to be set based on the cost of providing the service, plus a markup of 15 per cent.

The decision applies to current technologies only and indicates that rates will be frozen for at least five years.