The Canadian government released the 2018 price comparison of wireless pricing just before the holidays, promoting the report with a press release trumpeting “greater competition leads to reduced mobile wireless price plans for Canadians.” Despite the optimism from Innovation, Science and Economic Development Minister Navdeep Bains, a closer look at the data shows that Canadians continue to pay some of the highest wireless prices in the world. In fact, a comparison of pricing changes since the Liberals won the 2015 election reveals that Canada lags badly behind peer countries in the reduction of pricing of common wireless plans.
Consider the two baskets (or levels) that many consumers encounter when they consider a wireless plan: unlimited talk and text plus either 2 GB or 5 GB of data. In each case, Canadian prices are either the highest or second highest among the reviewed countries. Not only are the prices high, they are typically falling more slowly than in those other countries. In other words, the gap between Canada and other countries on wireless affordability is growing, not shrinking.
Level 4 – 2 GB, unlimited talk and text
Level 5 – 5 GB, unlimited talk and text
While the Canadian carriers seem determined to adopt a climate change denier style approach by injecting dubious data into the debate (more on that in a post tomorrow), the reality is that comparison data overwhelmingly points to Canadian wireless prices as uncompetitive, leading to reduced usage and harming the innovation economy. As Meghan Sali points out in her excellent Globe and Mail op-ed, the lack of wireless competitiveness is emerging as a political issue. With an election only months away, the time for real policy reform – including mandated MVNOs to encourage greater competition – is long overdue.