The federal government raised $8.9 billion in a licence auction for a key band of 5G wireless spectrum in results announced after the close of markets Thursday.
Canada’s Big Three wireless companies led the pack, grabbing hundreds of licences for the 3,500-megahertz band of airwaves.
The 3,500 MHz band of spectrum will be important because carriers are using it as a building block for their 5G networks. More equipment for carriers and smartphone hardware is expected to work with that frequency band.
Midrange bands like 3,500 MHz are useful in both urban and rural areas because they have the ability to travel considerable distances and pass through buildings.
“The 3,500 MHz auction is a key step in our government’s plan to promote competition in the telecom sector, improve rural connectivity and ensure Canadians benefit from 5G technologies and services,” said François-Philippe Champagne, the minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, in a statement.
WATCH | What is spectrum and how does it affect your cellphone?
“As intended, small and regional providers have gained access to significantly more spectrum, meaning that Canadians can expect better wireless services at more competitive prices, which has never been more important for working, online learning and staying connected with loved ones.”
As well as Rogers, Bell and Telus, carriers gaining licences include Videotron, Xplornet and SaskTel.
Rogers won 325 licenses, the largest amount, paying a clock price of $3.3 billion that will allow them to provide service to 34 million people.
The company said its investment will allow it to reach 99.4 per cent of Canadians with 5G.
“This investment in 5G spectrum will build on our existing 5G assets and enable us to deliver the world-class connectivity Canada needs to increase productivity, fuel innovation, create jobs and compete in a global economy for decades to come,” said Joe Natale, president and CEO of Rogers Communications, in a statement.
“We went into this auction with a clear plan and acquired the spectrum we need to continue driving the largest and most reliable 5G network in Canada and to deliver long-term value for our customers, shareholders and Canada.”
Videotron purchased 294 licenses, Bell received 271 and Telus won 142. Xplornet received 263 licenses.
Quebecor Inc., the parent company of Videotron, said its investments in the 5G auction were another step in its expansion outside of Quebec. It said more than half of the investments are concentrated in southern and eastern Ontario, Alberta, Manitoba and British Columbia.
“This major investment paves the way for large-scale projects in Quebec and other Canadian provinces in the coming years,” said Pierre Karl Péladeau, president and CEO of Quebecor.
“Our success in Quebec has served Quebecers well. Today we are taking another step toward bringing leading-edge technology and healthy competition to more Canadian consumers.”
Freedom Mobile, the country’s fourth-largest cell service provider, chose not to participate in the auction amid a takeover deal of its parent company Shaw Communications Inc. by Rogers that is awaiting regulatory approval.
The United States held a similar auction last year, raising $4.5 billion US in net proceeds. Ottawa’s $8.9 billion far outstrips the $3.5 billion raised in a 2019 spectrum auction for a different, less desirable wireless band.
In total, 1,495 out of 1,504 available licences were awarded to 15 Canadian companies, including 757 licences to small and regional providers across the country.
National and regional carriers collectively spend billions of dollars at auction to obtain licences for the spectrum they use for wireless service.
The 5G-compatible licences will allow more voice, video and data to be shared between smartphones or with other devices.
The auction was originally scheduled to take place last year but was delayed six months due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Britain strikes green investment partnership with Bill Gates
Bill Gates is working with the British government to invest and bring down the cost of new greener technologies to help countries hit net-zero emission targets by 2050.
Speaking at a Global Investment Summit alongside Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Gates said investment was needed to further develop new technologies that were currently too expensive for the consumer market.
Gates said he would work with the UK to identify which projects should be backed, and that he expected at least one of the projects to be ready to scale up in the next five years.
“We will scale those up and bring down that cost, so we’ll get these to the same place we are today with solar and onshore wind, and so they can be scaled up to reduce emissions,” he said.
Johnson’s government said the 400 million pound ($552 million) partnership would supercharge green tech investment across the country, including in areas such as green hydrogen, long-term energy storage, sustainable aviation fuels and direct air capture of carbon dioxide.
Gates, the co-founder of Microsoft, made the commitment through his Breakthrough Energy Catalyst which brings together a coalition of private investors who want to back innovation to tackle climate change.
Britain has already pledged at least 200 million pounds to the development of new UK projects, and investors and businesses in the Gates project will match that sum.
($1 = 0.7251 pounds)
(Reporting by William James; writing by Kate Holton; editing by Alistair Smout)
First U.S. futures-based bitcoin ETF begins trading, bitcoin nears record
The first U.S. bitcoin futures-based exchange-traded fund began trading on Tuesday, sending bitcoin to a six-month high and within striking distance of its all-time peak, as traders bet the ETF could boost investment flows into cryptocurrencies.
The ProShares Bitcoin Strategy ETF began trading on Intercontinental Exchange Inc’s NYSE Arca on Tuesday under the ticker BITO after being greenlighted by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
Bitcoin futures have been overseen by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission for four years and ETFs – securities that track an asset and can be bought or sold on a stock exchange – are regulated by the SEC, offering some level of investor protection, SEC chair, Gary Gensler, said on Tuesday.
“Yet it’s still a highly speculative asset class and investors should understand that underneath, there is the same volatility and speculation,” he told CNBC.
Bitcoin, the world’s biggest cryptocurrency, touched $63,337.54 after the listing, its highest since mid-April and near its record of $64,895.22.
Known throughout its 13-year life for its volatility, bitcoin has risen by some 40% this month on hopes the advent of bitcoin ETFs – of which several are in the works – will see billions of dollars managed by pension funds and other large investors flow into the sector.
The BITO ETF was last at $40.95, up slightly from its $40.88 open.
“It has traded tightly, within a penny of fair value pretty much all morning, so it’s part of the ecosystem,” said Dave Nadig, chief investment officer and director of research at ETF Trends.
The ETF had traded around $500 million worth, notionally, by late morning, which is “about what we would expect for a media-darling first launch in the space,” he said.
Much of BITO’s initial volume appeared to be from retail investors, as there were only four block trades, above 10,000 shares, all morning, Nadig said.
Nasdaq Inc on Friday approved the listing of the Valkyrie Bitcoin Strategy ETF, and Grayscale, the world’s largest digital currency manager, plans to convert its Grayscale Bitcoin Trust into a spot bitcoin ETF, the company confirmed.
Crypto ETFs have launched this year in Canada and Europe amid surging interest in digital assets. VanEck and Valkyrie are among fund managers pursuing U.S.-listed ETF products, although Invesco on Monday dropped its plans for a futures-based ETF.
The SEC has yet to approve a spot bitcoin ETF.
Bitcoin futures were up 2.21% at $63,035.
(Reporting by John McCrank in New York, Tom Wilson in London; additional reporting by Tom Westbrook in Singapore and Katanga Johnson in Washington; Editing by Kim Coghill, Jason Neely and Andrea Ricci)
Why COVID-19 boosters weren't tweaked to better match variants – CTV News
More COVID-19 booster shots may be on the way — but when it’s your turn, you’ll get an extra dose of the original vaccine, not one updated to better match the extra-contagious delta variant.
And that has some experts wondering if the booster campaign is a bit of a missed opportunity to target delta and its likely descendants.
“Don’t we want to match the new strains that are most likely to circulate as closely as possible?” Dr. Cody Meissner of Tufts Medical Center, an adviser to the Food and Drug Administration, challenged Pfizer scientists recently.
“I don’t quite understand why this is not delta because that’s what we’re facing right now,” fellow adviser Dr. Patrick Moore of the University of Pittsburgh said last week as government experts debated whether it’s time for Moderna boosters. He wondered if such a switch would be particularly useful to block mild infection.
The simple answer: The FDA last month OK’d extra doses of Pfizer’s original recipe after studies showed it still works well enough against delta — and those doses could be rolled out right away. Now the FDA is weighing evidence for boosters of the original Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines.
“It’s less churn and burn on the manufacturing” to only switch formulas when it’s really necessary, said FDA vaccine chief Dr. Peter Marks.
But Pfizer and Moderna are hedging their bets. They’re already testing experimental doses customized to delta and another variant, learning how to rapidly tweak the formula in case a change eventually is needed — for today’s mutants or a brand new one. The tougher question for regulators is how they’d decide if and when to ever order such a switch.
What we know so far:
CURRENT VACCINES ARE WORKING EVEN AGAINST DELTA
Vaccines used in the U.S. remain strongly effective against hospitalization and death from COVID-19, even after the delta variant took over, but authorities hope to shore up waning protection against less severe infection and for high-risk populations. Studies show an extra dose of the original formulas revs up virus-fighting antibodies that fend off infection, including antibodies that target delta.
MIGHT A DELTA-SPECIFIC BOOSTER WORK EVEN BETTER?
Vaccines target the spike protein that coats the coronavirus. Mutations in that protein made delta more contagious but to the immune system, it doesn’t look all that different, said virus expert Richard Webby of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
That means there’s no guarantee a delta-specific booster would protect any better, said University of Pennsylvania immunologist John Wherry. Waiting for studies to settle that question — and if necessary, brewing updated doses — would have delayed rolling out boosters to people deemed to need them now.
Still, because delta is now the dominant version of the virus worldwide it almost certainly will be a common ancestor for whatever evolves next in a mostly unvaccinated world, said Trevor Bedford, a biologist and genetics expert at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.
A delta-updated vaccine would “help to provide a buffer against those additional mutations,” he said. Bedford is paid by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, which also supports The Associated Press Health and Science Department.
TWEAKING THE RECIPE
The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are made with a piece of genetic code called messenger RNA that tells the body to make harmless copies of the spike protein so it’s trained to recognize the virus. Updating the formula merely requires swapping out the original genetic code with mRNA for a mutated spike protein.
Both companies first experimented with tweaked doses against a mutant that emerged in South Africa, the beta variant, that has been the most vaccine-resistant to date, more so than the delta variant. Lab tests showed the updated shots produced potent antibodies. But the beta variant didn’t spread widely.
Now the companies have studies underway of fully vaccinated people who agreed to test a booster dose tweaked to match delta. Moderna’s studies also include some shots that combine protection against more than one version of the coronavirus — much like today’s flu vaccines work against multiple influenza strains.
The mRNA vaccines are considered the easiest kind to tweak but some other vaccine makers also are exploring how to change their recipes if necessary.
WHY STUDY UPDATED SHOTS IF THEY’RE NOT YET NEEDED?
Moderna’s Dr. Jacqueline Miller told an FDA advisory panel last week the company is studying variant-specific boosters now to learn if they offer advantages, and to be ready if they’re needed.
And Penn’s Wherry said it is critical to carefully analyze how the body reacts to updated shots because the immune system tends to “imprint” a stronger memory of the first virus strain it encounters. That raises questions about whether a subtly different booster would prompt a temporary jump in antibodies the body’s made before — or the bigger goal, a broader and more durable response that might even be better positioned for the next mutations to come along.
NO RULES YET FOR MAKING A SWITCH
“What is the tripping point?” asked Webby, who is part of a World Health Organization network that tracks influenza evolution. “A lot of what is going to need to go into that decision making is just going to be learned by experience, unfortunately.”
Bedford said now is the time to decide what drop in vaccine effectiveness would trigger a formula change, just as is done with flu vaccines every year.
That’s important not just if a dramatically worse variant suddenly develops. Like many scientists, Bedford expects the coronavirus to eventually evolve from a global crisis into a regular threat every winter — which might mean more regular boosters, maybe even yearly in combination with the flu shot.
Timing between shots matters, too, Wherry noted.
“Your boostability may actually improve with longer intervals between stimulation,” he said. While scientists have learned a lot about the coronavirus, “the story’s not finished yet and we don’t know what the last chapters say.”
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