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Canadian Wireless Reality Check: Why Our Wireless Market is Still Woefully Uncompetitive

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Sunday March 10, 2013

In the aftermath of the CRTC's hearing on a consumer wireless code and the government's announcement of its plan for future spectrum auctions, a debate has raged over the competitiveness and health of the Canadian wireless market. Scotia Capital released a report last week titled "Canadian wireless myths and facts" that argued the Canadian market is healthy and that "it is time for the regulators to declare victory on the policies they adopted five years ago". Meanwhile, Open Media issued a report titled Time for an Upgrade: Demanding Choice in Canada's Cell Phone Market that places on the spotlight on many of the ongoing problems in the market, with a particular focus on consumer complaints. The report includes many recommendations for regulatory and policy reform.

The reality is that both the regulators and politicians have either expressly or impliedly acknowledged that the Canadian wireless market is uncompetitive. Last week, Industry Minister Christian Paradis promoted the government's past moves on wireless competition, but admitted that "there is much more to do." Meanwhile, the Competition Bureau told the CRTC in its submission on the wireless code of conduct that:

certain impediments continue to diminish the effect of competitive forces in this industry. First, certain industry practices have tended to impose costs on consumers who wish to avail themselves of competitive alternatives. Second, consumers are not always provided with sufficient information in an adequately clear manner to make informed purchase decisions.

This post seeks to extend the debate and respond to some of Scotia Capital's claims. It identifies ten reasons why there is ample evidence that the Canadian wireless market remains woefully uncompetitive when compared with peer countries around the world with higher costs, price gouging, and restrictive terms.

1.    Canadian Carriers Enjoy the Highest ARPU in the World

While there many ways to calculate the competitiveness of a wireless market, the one that matters most to the carriers and business analysts is ARPU, the average revenue per user.  By that standard, Canada is the most carrier-friendly market in the world as the carriers extract higher revenues from their users than any other country. The Scotia Capital report points to declining voice ARPU in Canada, claiming "this was largely due to competition and data/text substitution." The reality is that competition has little to do with declining voice ARPU as it is dropping around the world (Europe, U.S.) with changing usage patterns. 

Moreover, it is total ARPU that matters, not voice ARPU. On that front, Scotia Capital notes that ARPU for Bell, Rogers, and Telus has been largely unchanged since the entry of the new wireless competitors (Bell is up slightly, Rogers and Telus down slightly). When compared to other countries, Canadian ARPU stacks up as the highest in the world. The CRTC's Communications Monitoring Report 2012 shows Canadian ARPU as tied with Japan as the highest among eight leading economies (Canada, US, UK, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and Australia) (Figure 6.1.9). In other words, despite new entrants designed to spur greater competition, the incumbent providers are still enjoying world-leading ARPU, which is indicative of a market sorely lacking in strong competition.

CRTC Global ARPU Comparison
2.    Higher Consumer Prices than Peer Countries

Scotia Capital trumpets Canadian pricing, noting that a comparison of plans reveals that they are cheaper than those found in the U.S. Yet the comparison with the U.S. ignores the many other peer countries where Canadian consumer prices remain higher. In fact, the U.S. comparison is convenient since it stands as one of the only countries where Canadian prices compare favourably in some studies. The CRTC's Communications Monitoring Report 2012 provides data comparing wireless service pricing across three levels - basic users, average users, and premium users - in Canada, the U.S., UK, France, Australia, and Japan (Table 6.1.1).

CRTC Comparison Pricing

The CRTC report finds that Canadian prices are on the higher end across each category. For basic users, Canada ties with the U.S. as the most expensive country (double the price of the UK). For average and premium users, Canadian prices were the third most expensive among the surveyed countries. While the U.S. was more expensive in both of those categories, Canada was far more expensive than the UK and Australia in every category and more expensive than France and Japan in two out of three categories. 

Moreover, last August the U.S. Federal Communications Commission released its third annual International Broadband Data Report, which compares broadband services as required by a U.S. law. Canada ranked 26th out of 37 countries for the cost of smartphone data based on plans with usage limits. Canada did not even rank in a comparison of countries with no usage limits since no such plans could be found. In other words, concerns that Canadian prices are high is no myth.

FCC Smartphone Data Plan Comparison

3.    Still Gouging, Part One: Enhanced 9-1-1 Costs

A clear indication of an uncompetitive market are fees to consumers that are relatively uniform across the major carriers but that bear no relationship to actual costs (in a competitive market, carriers might be expected to reduce those fees to closer to actual costs in order to lower prices and attract more consumers). For example, the incumbents all charge their subscribers 75 cents per month for enhanced 9-1-1 services.

But as WindMobile told to the CRTC during the consumer wireless hearings (para 10084), the actual cost for E-911 service is closer to ten cents. WindMobile does not include a separate fee for E-911 on its service, choosing instead to bear the cost. However, it pays a monthly tariff rate for E-911, which it told the CRTC was "around seven to 11 cents." Assuming the tariff rate more closely reflects actual cost, the 75 cent charge to consumer represents an enormous markup. Consider the costs to Canadian consumers: assuming an actual cost of 10 cents per month, the carriers generate 65 cents profit per subscriber per month. With roughly 25 million subscribers with the incumbent carriers, that is an extra $180 million in annual revenue after costs are covered.

4.    Still Gouging, Part Two: High Roaming Costs

A 2011 OECD study captured national headlines after it found that Canadian carriers had the most expensive data roaming charges in the world. The study looked at the cost of using 1 MB in a single session for a traveler assuming they travel to all OECD countries. The result left Canadians paying the most at an average of $24.61. By comparison, Greek consumers paid $4.17 and Iceland customers paid $4.42. The OECD average was $9.48. The report included several other baskets of roaming data with Canada typically ranking among the most expensive (with the exception of 20 MB packages).

In the two years since that study, Canadian carriers have introduced various measures to address roaming costs, but the persistent stories of roaming sticker shock remain. For example, last week the CBC reported on a B.C. family that ran up $22,000 in charges for 12 hours of YouTube streaming while in Mexico. While critics of the story argued that Rogers never actually billed the full amount and noted that cheaper roaming packages were available, left unsaid was any explanation for how charging $30 for one MB as a pay-per-use charge is anything other than gouging. Indeed, other countries have taken action against high roaming fees with the European Union placing price caps on data roaming and opening the door to greater competition on roaming rates next year by separating domestic service from roaming service. The OECD has also recommended that countries take action, including the possibility of wholesale or retail price regulation.

5.    Still Gouging, Part Three: Regulatory Recovery Fees

A long-time staple of the Canadian wireless market was the system access fee, which misleadingly suggested a fee for accessing the network that was mandated by the government or the CRTC. In fact, the fee was not a regulatory requirement, but rather an effort by the carriers to disguise the actual costs of their plans as it shifted nearly six dollars each month to a separate fee item. Some carriers dropped the system access fee in 2009, though a multi-billion dollar class action lawsuit continues to wind its way through the courts.

Rogers replaced the system access fee with a monthly government regulatory cost fee.  These costs would be a cost of doing business in just about any other sector, but for Rogers it is a chance to charge for spectrum licensing, CRTC contributions, and local number portability.  Other carriers have dropped the system access fee, but maintain an assortment of other fees for device setup, unlocking (see below for more), and rate plan changes. 

6.    Three Year Contracts Are Not Correlated to Smartphone Adoption

The Scotia Capital report touts the value of three-year contracts, arguing that "we think the three-year contract has actually led to low handset prices that helped smartphone penetration in Canada." Yet the evidence doesn't appear to support claims that there is a correlation between three year contracts and smartphone adoption. Comscore just released its 2013 Mobile Future in Focus report which indicates that Canada is ranked third for smartphone adoption, trailing Spain and the UK, but ahead of France, Italy, Germany, and Japan (no other countries are listed). 

If Scotia Capital were right, one would expect three year contracts in other countries with leading smartphone adoption such as Spain and the UK.  But Spanish incumbent carriers have actually reduced handset subsidies in recent months and new entrants have aggressively promoted two-year contracts with a better subsidy than that offered in Canada (the iPhone 5 is available for free from Yoigo, a new entrant, with only a €25 per month cost). Meanwhile, the UK banned three year contracts in 2011, making a two-year contract the longest permitted and requiring all carriers to offer one-year deals. With countries ahead of Canada in smartphone adoption rejecting the three-year contract, claims that it is needed to help smartphone adoption simply isn't supported by the experience elsewhere.

7.    Mandatory Unlocking of Phones Does Not Delay Market Entry of New Devices

During the recent CRTC hearing on a consumer wireless code, Bell claimed that a rule mandating unlocked phones would delay entry of new devices into the Canadian market. The company told the CRTC (para 8041):

I don't know because I'm not Apple but we were discussing, for example, would Apple have allowed -- if Canada had a rule that mandated unlocking, would we be one of the first countries to get the latest iPhone? I don't think so. I think they would want to launch it in other countries. I'm not saying that it wouldn't come to Canada. So I don't want to overexaggerate to say they wouldn't ever. What I'm saying is if we had a rule like that, I think it's going to put Canadians getting iPhones, the next generation iPhone later if it was a mandated requirement.

Yet there is no evidence to suggest that Apple would delay entry into the Canadian market due to an unlock requirement. JF Mezei of Vaxination Informatique notes in his final submission to the CRTC:

The incumbents argued that Apple's iPhone would not be available as quickly in Canada if a requirement it be sold unlocked were made. For the iPhone5 launch, Hong Kong (which requires unlocked handsets) was part of the original list of locations (including Canada and USA) which got the iPhone5 on launch day (Sept 21). Italy and Finland [which also require unlocked handsets] got the iPhone a week later on the same date (Sept 28th) as the other western European countries.

Not only are the claims of delayed market entry unsubstantiated fear mongering, but the exorbitant fees for unlocking should be factored into the analysis.  Bell charges $75 to unlock a device and admitted to the CRTC that "we absolutely could do it for less. We choose not." (para. 7916). That fee - effectively an additional $2 per month charge on a three year contract to unlock a phone - poses a significant additional cost for consumers and helps lock consumers into the high roaming fees discussed above.

8.    Actual Canadian Mobile Speeds Are Slower than Peer Countries

Canadian wireless providers have trumpeted their new LTE networks, yet recent data from Akamai still indicates that Canadian mobile data speeds are far slower than many peer countries. The most recent Akamai State of the Internet report (2012, Q3) includes data on carriers around the world. There is data on one Canadian carrier, which badly trails both average and peak speeds when compared to China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Lithuania, Netherlands, Russia, Spain, UK, Australia, and New Zealand.  The CRTC reported similar slow speeds (based on Akamai data) in its 2012 Communications Monitoring Report (figure 6.1.8), with Canadian mobile data speeds slower than all other countries in the comparison group.

9.    Fewer Subscribers Per Capita in Canada Than Peer Countries

Canadians may love their cellphones, but there are far fewer subscribers in Canada on per capita basis than in other countries. The CRTC's 2012 Communications Monitoring Report reported that Canada had the lowest mobile subscription penetration among Canada, the U.S., UK, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and Australia (Figure 6.1.5). While higher penetration rates (well over 100 subscriptions per 100 inhabitants) may be expected from European countries where roaming between countries in close proximity is widespread, Japan and Australia are islands and the U.S. market is not driven by roaming outside the country. Yet the U.S. (106 per 100), Japan (101 per 100), and Australia (130 per 100), all rank well ahead of Canada's 78 per 100. With prices high and contracts long, Canadians are often locked into a single provider and less likely to subscribe with more than one device.

CRTC International Wireless Penetration Rates

10.    Canadian Carriers are Inefficient Users of Spectrum

The incumbent carriers continue to claim that they need more spectrum, yet Canadian carriers have hoarded more spectrum than their counterparts in practically any other country. In 2011, the CTIA, the lead association for U.S. wireless companies, compared the amount of spectrum with the number of wireless subscribers to determine how many subscribers are served per MHz of spectrum allocated. In a comparison of ten leading countries, Canada ranked last in spectrum efficiency. While the U.S carriers used one MHz to nearly 740,000 subscribers, the Canadian rate was 90,992 subscribers per MHz. The Canadian market was the smallest of the 10 countries (which would reduce the number of subscribers per MHz), but the data suggests that Canadian carriers could do far more to maximize current spectrum holdings and reduce their costs in the process.

Comments (98)add comment

Shawn H Corey said:

Only One Solution
There's only one solution to the problem: mesh networking http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wireless_mesh_network
March 11, 2013

GTH said:

Independent Web Developer
Dear Prof. Geist. I am so disillusioned and cynical about our systems. Is there not anything we(average Cdn.) can do? Short of leaving the country. Fed-up
March 11, 2013

Serge said:

Subscribe to a cheaper wireless carrier
GTH, one thing you can do is choose carriers that have reasonable pricing practices. I use WIND for mobile and Teksavvy for Internet, and I am a reasonably satisfied consumer as a result. Totally mystified why they don't have a bigger market share, to be honest.
March 11, 2013

Dan said:

In reply to Serge: Its no mystery at all to me why the better carriers have such small market share. Its all about the marketing. Rogers & Bell spend millions to acquire new customers and lock them into 3 year contracts, with heavy penalties for leaving, then just before your contract is up, or when you want a new phone, they offer you a great "deal" just to stick around and get handcuffed to a new contract.
For home internet, the weekly flyers I get from Rogers and Bell practically begging me to use their service with low 6-month "introductory" rates are how they own the largest amount of mind-share, so that even when someone get so angry and fed up with one of the big carriers, they just switch to the other one, and the result is that Rogers & Bell, both with a horrifically bad customer experience, just keep swapping customers back & forth, laughing all the way to the bank.
March 11, 2013

Dave said:

Three Year Contracts
Three year contracts are obviously a lock-in tool and nothing else. The carriers have moved from insultingly tiny phone subsidies on one and two year contracts to no such options at all.

These days if you want to buy a leading smartphone from a major Canadian carrier, your options are lock yourself in for 3 years or pay the fully inflated sticker price.

(Door number 3 is to buy a Nexus 4 direct from the Play Store, but that says nothing about the competitiveness of our wireless industry; it's merely Google's end-run around it.)
March 11, 2013

Ravi said:

Not as easy as it looks...
I tried to switch from Rogers to Wind/Mobilicity, but came up against one major problem: Coverage. Neither Wind or Mobilicity covers the areas that I either a) currently live in (south Ottawa), or b) will be working in, in a few months (Newmarket). Its all well and nice to say "hey just switch", but until the newer players can cover more than just dense downtown cores, or bigger suburbs, many of us don't have the luxury of switching. But when they do, mark my words...
March 11, 2013

Anomyme said:

IPhone unlocking would prevent entry of next versions?
Euh, Unlocked iPhones are available on Apple's own store in Canada...
March 11, 2013

Un-Trusted Computing said:

I'm not sure about Southern Ottawa, but Newmarket (and Barrie) are fully serviced by WIND.
March 11, 2013

Cynic said:

Don't just gloss over the data, the truth is in the details
When did ARPU become a metric for assessing competitiveness of an industry? If a family in Toronto spends $200 more on gas for their Toyota Corolla each month than a family in Montreal, does that mean gas is more expensive in Toronto? Of course not, you have to normalize usage before you can make a comparison, you have to look more deeply at the data.

When you look at the BOM Merrill Lynch study you will see that Canadian consumption of voice minutes is the second highest in the world. With this context, all ARPU means is that Canadians spend more each month on their cell phones because they use them more. If Canadian usage was lower, and in line with other countries, ARPU would be lower as well.

The BOM Merrill Lynch study says the revenue per minute (RPM) is 10 cents in Canada, Japan is 23 cents, and Switzerland is 29 cents per minute. Canada has the 5th lowest RPM in the developed world - some would argue that makes Canada look pretty darned competitive.

In response to GTH, you don't have to leave the country, there is no free lunch anywhere. You just have to be suspicious of the information people are feeding you - don't accept it until you are satisfied it passes the "smell test". Often you will find that the information is not presented in full and fair context and someone is trying to manipulate your opinion for their own benefit.
March 11, 2013

Josie said:

Also in reply to Serge, I would most definitely move to another carrier like WIND except that they don't have any coverage for where I live, just 40 kms. from the centre of Vancouver. Until WIND's coverage is more widespread, people are not going to leave the Big Three.
March 11, 2013

VJGoh said:

Cynic is right
"Often you will find that the information is not presented in full and fair context and someone is trying to manipulate your opinion for their own benefit."

This is true. For instance, Cynic appears to be some sort of industry shill.
March 11, 2013

Mark said:

The article's title seems incorrect. With the possible exception of #9, none of these reasons explain WHY there is a lack of competition. These reasons reflect the RESULT of a lack of competition.
March 11, 2013

CRad said:

Legal Reprocussions?
When is someone going to go after the Big 3 for price fixing? It's apparent to anyone with reasonable intelligence that all three companies maintain the same regular and so called 'promotional' rate plans at the same time? In fact no one provider is any different then the other. When you talk about incumbent brands almost all of them belong to one of the Big 3 as an umbrella company, virgin belonging to bell, koodo, to telus, and fido to rogers. It's ridiculous to think we have any sort of realistic choice in the matter when ultimately what it comes down to is who we want to throw our money at? Regardless of your decision you will be operating under the same restrictions confines and rate plans as you would have been had you signed up with an alternative carrier.
March 11, 2013

Cynic said:


I'm sorry if the truth upsets the way you want to see the world. I would encourage you to look at the data yourself, everything you need is in the first table on the first page of the BOM Merrill Lynch report - it will take less than 10 minutes of your time. If you come to a different conclusion then I would welcome the debate. If you choose not to look at the data before forming your own opinion then we'll all know that you're just a follower.
March 11, 2013

Grump said:

You haven't provided any source for your numbers, but I'll take you at your word. You paint a rosey picture, but: mobile subscriptions per household and mobile broadband per household are still below average, and the ARPU is still at the head of the pack. What that seems to suggest is simply that most people are hesitant to adopt (for example, due to price, or features), and those who have chosen to subscribe are paying through the nose (for example, people in the bush who need it for work). Per-minute voice rates may be low, as you claim, but that rate is inaccessible to most subscribers without absurd contracts and add-ons. Most people aren't willing to commit to a minimum $100 bill/month, for 3 years to get your rate.


Not much has change since then.

If I want to replace my land line, which sits idle for 99.9% of the day, and which is used for 95% local calling, where is the plan that lets me do that at a reasonable cost? This is what most land-line voice users are waiting for, but it doesn't exist, and pre-paid is not an option. The pre-paid rates are absurd; they aren't pre-paid, they expire. My Tim Horton's card doesn't even expire, why does my cell balance?
March 11, 2013

Name said:

March 11, 2013

Grumpier said:

AT&T cell in Canada
I have an AT&T Go Phone = prepaid - Guess what it is cheaper to use in Canada than a Rogers pay as you go. Rogers charges the same price, but also nicks you for a monthly charge.

And as for WIND working in Barrhaven, that is a street by street crapshoot.
March 11, 2013

Dave said:

You can twist the numbers any which way you want, but my numbers make the most sense to me. My monthly bill with Rogers was around $80. I say around because it jumped all over with all sorts of random fees. With Mobilicity I have been consistently paying $35 a month for far more services. Sure, I had to spend $150 on a Blackberry, but I was far ahead of the game long ago.
March 11, 2013

Cynic said:


It pays to shop around. My wife and I each carry cell phones (from Telus) and my combined bill for the two of them is $54 per month - the minutes and data buckets are more than ample for what we need so my bill is fairly constant. I also have an iPad data acount that cost me $5 per month and I provide a prepaid cell phone for my mother-in-law that costs about $10 per month. So my total monthly cost for 3 cell phones plus an iPad is around $70 per month. None of my 3 phones or iPad is on a contract. Sure I would like it to be cheaper but I actually think the price is reasonable fair for all the services I have.

I have a vacation home in the US and I get hosed $55 per month for a local phone line compared to $28 in Canada. High speed internet costs me $45 per month for a pathetic 1.5 MB/s service in the US compared to $35/month for a 15 Mb/s service in Canada. The saddest part about the internet is you can't get faster than 1.5 Mb/s even if you were willing to pay for it.
March 11, 2013

evil carrier said:

Three Year Contracts
Guys, did anyone think that the reason our costs are higher is because we insist on getting the latest and greatest phones for less than the actual retail price. It makes sense the carriers are going to recover that cost somewhere along the line..thats just how business goes. If people took a stand and more people just outright bought their own phones, you wouldnt be in a subsidy agreement and then wouldnt have to worry about when your next upgrade is due. Its paranoia to think carriers are trying to "lock you in", they just want their money for the damn phone back. easy fix but wed have to man up to the costs of our fancy toys.
March 11, 2013

Stephen said:

CDN cellphone setup has been a racket for ages
I hadn't realized how crooked a racket the Canadian cellphone providers had till I moved to the UK. I've got a pay as you go smartphone with unlimited skype and MSN messenger, 300 txt messages 150 MB of data included every time I put on $15.00 which also gets me about 83 minutes of talk time good for 3 months. After 3 months any unused txt or data minutes expire but the cash credit remains (for years & years, as I discovered when I moved and unpacked an old phone I'd forgotten about). After a typical year of use for me I've used about 1000 txt messages and have about $50 of the $60 I put on the phone over the year.
Don't get me started on how slow the 3G speeds are in Canada either, when I tether my old 3G phone to my laptop in the UK I get about 3Mb-6Mb down and about 3Mb - 4Mb up, At home in Canada? I'd be lucky for half that. Additional downloads are $0.75 for 512MB for a day or $7 for 2GB. My Canadian pay as you go provider (who also provides cable TV) has a internet provision that makes it worth my while to find a landline connection.
I could go on and on about horribly service, almost criminal billing practices that I had experienced when I was young and paying a monthly contract to my Canadian provider with the broadest most reliable network (that still managed to drop calls with full signal strength) etc, etc but you are all aware of them.
Will Canada improve? Well it's not changed over the last 18 years I've had the misfortune of using them, I don't expect there will be a change anytime soon.
Can someone explain to me how it is possible that when you provide an interest free loan (prepaying phone credit) on a Canadian cell phone that the money gets 'used' up if you don't use the phone. Seems like just another scam gift card scam like the one's people buy for Christmas.
March 11, 2013

CharlieF said:

wired and wireless can be cheaper in Canada without jumping through hoops, and still have a fair mark up. There's no arguing that.
All their revenue are to buy up sports teams, stadiums, TV channels, newspapers, magazines, etc instead of improving the networks. Nothing wrong with capitalism if there's decent competition. Unless it's a oligopoly, then it's just communism.

@Cynic - You failed to explain how much effort was required in haggling and that Robellus only gave you that price because they're price-gouging everyone else to give you that price.
March 11, 2013

Grump said:


1) Telus' least expensive plan is $25/month for 100 minutes. That is 3.33
minutes a day, and a cost of 25 cents a minute (and 50 cents/minute past
that, so don't get too close to going over... real usage: 75 min). Most
people are going to stick with their land line forever at that rate.

2) That $5 iPad data plan gives you 10 whole MB. That's right MB. I
don't think I've seen that associated with a network connection since
1992. That's 5 minutes of internet radio or 15 spam emails, or 1% of
an accidentally-accepted software update. The real cost of that plan,
after an anemic 1GB is $25 (but at least that covers the iOS software
update). Again, most people are going to continue, reasonably, to
piggy-backing on their home WiFi.

3) Your mother-in-law probably doesn't use her phone at all, so you
are basically giving away $120/year for nothing. If you got it for
emergencies, you could have just got her the phone. 911 is supposed to
work, plan or no plan.

4) Again, I have to guess, but you may be using Telus for Internet, and
that may be a bundled price, because neither Shaw or Telus offer a $35
plan outright. If so, I wish you luck, since Telus' customer service has
been nothing short of a nightmare for me. If you are using someone else,
I'm curious who, but it's almost certainly not available in my area...

@evil carrier

I am (like Dave) more than willing to "bring my own phone." "The mustard"
and "cut", that does not.
March 11, 2013

WLF68 said:

One Fact:
Wireless is not magic. Whoever controls the infrastructure, controls the market and the industry growth. Unless it's shared properly, but it's not! In a perfect system with informed people, the infrastructure would be collectively build and paid for by communities, and corporate interests like Bell/Roger/Telus would have no part in it. Like any other passive system, the only real cost is when building it. Nobody should have to still be paying for copper and fixed wireless.
March 11, 2013

Grump said:

I agree with you, and it's doable - without any of the inevitable communist/capitalist rhetoric that will blow through - if only the Canadian government, CRTC, etc, did an effective job. Taxi services and shipping companies don't own the roads. Why do telcos have so much ownership/control of the communication lines?
March 11, 2013

Cynic said:


The iPad plan I have with Telus is $5 per month for 500MB, it's not advertized on their website but its a deal they offered because I have 3 other cell phones with them plus my internet and TV service. If I go over 500MB they charge me 5 cents per MB until the bill hits a cap of $30. But hey, it only costs $5 a month for the convenience and it's capped at $30 so the cost/convenience/risk is worth it to me.

Your right, my mother-in-law hardly ever uses her phone. We got it for her primarily for our own peace of mind. We can reach her or she can call us anywhere at anytime. Personally I wouldn't take a chance that 911 might work on a disconnected cell phone.

I can honestly say that I have never had a problem with customer service whether it be for my cell phone or car insurance (I get a fair price on car insurance too - 2 cars and an ATV for $1400 per year, but I also insure my house and cottage with the same company). The more business you bring to a company the more they are willing to do for you.

March 11, 2013

Adam said:

No discount for providing your own phone
I'm surprised that the report failed to mention the fact that if you pay the full price for an unlocked cellphone, you still pay the same price for service as someone who is locked in and receives a subsidized phone. There is currently little incentive to avoid the carrier subsidy unless you frequently travel and wish to avoid high roaming charges by using another carrier while travelling abroad.
March 11, 2013

Grump said:

Translation: the rich get richer. I'm not going to complain because
you have 2 more cars, 1 more ATV, 2 more houses, 3 more cell phones,
and 1 more iPad than I do, but I am going to call you on that line and
say that I (and others) shouldn't have to bring hundreds or thousands of
dollars of business with them to unlock hidden rates that are a little
less flaying. We're all shopping based on advertised price, not the price
our friend in sales can get us. I'm happy you have received good service,
but have you ever tried canceling a Telus feature? I think there's a
minimum 30 minute wait on a good day. You should probably check your
plans periodically too, as they are happy to change them, lowering rates
for everyone else, while leaving you paying the old rate...

You have painted an average experience cheerily, to your credit (optimism
is a virtue), but you are paying mostly to hold devices that claim to
communicate with other devices, when should you use them for more than an
occasional email or emergency call, you'll bleed money. You are probably
who the "lite" plans are for. Most people aren't satisfied with those
plans' price-to-service ratios. Moreover, I would observe - not as a
point of shame but as a point of comparison - that you seem to have more
disposable income than many who are in the same boat as I am, and simply
want more options. For people in a different boat, there are only the
infinite permutations of bundles we don't need, of services we don't like,
at terms that are almost mortgages. There is a lack of basic service.

Referring specifically to the cell situation, we are all looking at the
low spectrum utilization, and the high minimum plan fees, and wondering
why. If the public is missing something, I think the solution could simply
be more transparency, and treating the communication tech as the vital
infrastructure that it is (you yourself want it in emergencies... so
does everyone else).

It's not specific to cells/"mobile" either... Case in point: surely
voice data over your own Internet link should be less expensive than a
Telus land-line. Not so. Shaw's Internet phone is $10 more a month than
Telus. Vonage? Only slightly better than Telus, and only applicable if
you want to save on long distance /and/ can give up your phone number
in a bind (see my, and everyone else's, use-case above). There is no
competition. It's like everyone has agreed to monopolize a slightly different
area and charge their closest non-competitive "competitor's" rate rather
than passing on any savings due to progress (the voice-data-over-the-net
example given), meaning no one switches providers based on value, unless
it's to outright cancel (good luck getting by without a home phone),
so new technologies don't get developed. Vonage is 14+ years old and
has had no major competitors. Where's Telus's Internet phone, cheaper
than it's old phone? No where. It's like Telus and Vonage had lunch and
picked a price that would minimize market volatility.
March 12, 2013

Grump said:

OK, Vonage has some competitors, but none that can port my number.
March 12, 2013

HAGAR said:

"Communication" is a minor expense for first world citizens who are part of an economy that was built on the backs of First Nations, third world populations and other exploited people. These same people (those living off the backs of others), who are mostly ignorant of their situation in the greater world, prefer to remain ignorant of such things as the magic of wireless and are likewise content to maintain their own status quo union or private jobs rather than understand the implications for others. In B.C. at least, the last major upgrade to wired services (extensive fibre deployment on new right-of-ways throughout the province) was done immediately before the province gave away the public infrastructure to Telus. The wired and wireless voice services are all configured for wiretapping which requires some propriety in how accessible the technology is to the general public. The first poster has it right - the solution is mesh networking - but the regulators have to first disband their surveillance requirements to something opt-in that does not require such an outdated model of communications. If you use VOIP and wifi, you are not even locatable by the police right now even though this might be something you would prefer, yet they can still get the exact location of your expired cell phone if warranted. Spectrum is an issue, so is radiation, and so are fairness and privacy. These are all connected. The technical solution is obvious to anyone who understands the technology well enough, but the business solution is not. The business solution is for all government expenditures to be transitioned from the existing infrastructure to a new public infrastructure that starts with the public interest in mind. The amount spent on services for education, government, health care, research, basic line service, etc. could well be enough to rebuild an entire infrastructure in short order; the problem: there would be little use for the old infrastructure, the communications industry would cease to exist, along with the taxation revenues that currently pay for these services. With the degree of government subsidy that is currently in place, it is difficult to see how competition alone will be an effective catalyst for change. BUT, a simple regulatory change that required smart phones to be capable of an alternate optional global 911 location service that utilized (and provided) mesh networking for operation -- via a simple extensible and open protocol over both a reserved emergency band AND/OR all open (700, 2.4G, 5.8G, 24G) frequencies supported by the phone -- would quickly allow innovation to replace texting and empower users to build a better network (share battery/signal to get battery/signal). On the wired side, communities transitioning to peering agreements with content providers would eliminate TV and Cellphone as we know it by tapping a true communication potential that is not only faster and produces less radiation, but is accessible to everyone who has a smart phone. Spectrum currently used for cell phones could be recaptured once its new utility becomes obvious. MESH-4D (aka HAGAR - Honest Accountable Globally Accepted Reconnaissance)
March 12, 2013

HAGAR said:

To add to what I said previously, such innovation will benefit from protection against patents that might otherwise slow or prevent it.

..., a simple regulatory change that requires smart phones to be capable of an alternate optional global 911-like location service that utilizes (and provides) mesh networking for operation...see previous post ...accessible to everyone who has a smart phone. Spectrum currently used for cell phones could be recaptured once its new utility becomes obvious. MESH-4D (aka HAGAR - Honest Accountable Globally Accepted Reconnaissance)
March 12, 2013

Pay Attention said:

Is everyone missing the obvious here?
How can we use ARPU and penetration as separate ways to say Canada's market is lousy? Shouldn't we, at least, combine the two? If Italy has 151 subscriptions per 100 inhabitants, how is it relevant to compare straight ARPU? Who's paying for the rest of those subscriptions? Also, how great are the wireless plans if half the country has to subscribe to two?
And what about buying power? Italy's per capita GDP is 28% lower than Canada's. Of course prices will be lower. The same would be true for a house, or a loaf of bread.
March 12, 2013

Cynic said:


The last time I called Telus customer service was about a year and a half ago and I'll bet I wasn't on hold more than 2 minutes. I called to activate the connection for my iPad - it was actually a very pleasant and inexpensive experience. No complaints from me.

They actually call me once or twice each year to go over all of my services, review my service plans and make sure they are meeting my needs. The landline in my office gets used for a solid 6-7 hours everyday and my cell phone fills in the gaps when I'm not at my desk. I also get 200-300 emails every day but I prefer to review them on my laptop rather than my iPhone. The iPhone is ok but the user interface is just too slow for doing heavy duty email - plus it doesn't handle attachments worth a hoot.

I wouldn't characterize myself as a lite user of gadgets at all. In fact I would think I skew more towards the heavy user end of the scale but that usage is spread across multiple technology platforms, not concentrated on one.

Perhaps I do have more disposable income than you do but I suspect that has more to do with my age rather than my job. I started my engineering career about 10 years before the internet was invented and there was no such thing as email. Cell phones were just starting to show up but they came in small suitcases and cost about $3000 (about $6000 in today's dollars). The only people using cell phones back then were oil company executives, now you see kids running around with them.

I haven't looked at the spectrum utilization issue you have raised but I suspect it needs more than just a passing glance. I would like to know if population density has any impact on Mr. Geist's conclusions because we all know there are 10 Americans for every Canadian and we are spread across the entire continent from the Atlantic to Pacific just like they are.

March 12, 2013

Anthony said:

Reality Check
Compare to Japan, Japan is around 24 times smaller than Canada but close to 4 times more in population than us. Compare to UK, UK has one of the highest overall population density in the world.

Comparing countries like that is like comparing apple and orange. Canada has far fewer population but much bigger land for carriers to cover the coverage.
March 12, 2013

Noyb said:

One major difference
For some reason it always gets ignored: Geography. The US has 10 times the population, but it's scattered all over the country. Canada the majority of our population is in urban areas and within 160km of the US border. There are ~15,000 cell sites in Canada. The costs ought to be much much lower than the US where there are over 250,000 cell sites

Australia is a much better comparison as, like Canada, it's population is concentrated and the vast majority of their territory is unpopulated.
March 12, 2013

Geography lesson said:

Wireless coverage and Canadian geography
Several posters have focused on Canada's large size as a reason for the higher costs. If carriers covered every inch of the country that would be true. The reality is that they cover about 20% of the country which accounts for 99% of the population. It is not as big an issue as those posters claim.

March 12, 2013

Dark said:

@Geography lesson

However, in Ontario, the area with the highest population density -- that is, the GTA -- does not hold the highest real population in the province. The GTA houses about 6 million people. Ontario is the most populous province, housing around 13-14 million residents. Rural areas, the north and the east make up the staggering 7-8 million difference that sees little to no coverage. With regard to broadband, rural areas are actually subsidising urban areas, not the other way around. Ruralites pay around 2-5 times (if not more!) the amount per month that urbanites and those in suburbia pay for broadband. Internet and wireless topology is completely different to physical topology, and if the continued presence of Xplornet in the rural areas is any indication, the "lack of return on investment" line the big telcos spout as reasoning for there being no affordable fixed broadband outside of towns in Central Ontario is complete bullshit.

However, Xplornet, as many have found out, is not a proper solution to the broadband/wireless penetration problem rural and fringe areas have, and moving to an urban area does nothing to address the underlying problem. I'm willing to wager that the younger generation growing up outside villages like Madoc would be making demands for affordable, reliable broadband that their parents would never have made, simply because that in the information age, there is literally no excuse for Canada's broadband penetration to be in the sad state it's in.
March 12, 2013

Dark said:

The main problem with your point in the last paragraph is that while there are 10 Americans per Canadian citizen, this is mainly due to the largely unarable and inhospitable landscape up north and along the Shield. Much of the US' land is arable and is actively used for farming, and where farms appear, small villages and eventually cities follow.
March 12, 2013

Grump said:


It still sounds like your use of _mobile_ is light. You seem to be
making the same compromise as others: you are doing the bulk of your
communication through hard-wired, lower cost services only, can justify
paying the equivalent of a multiple extra lines for nowhere near that
much service. Most can't. You also use it for work, as I guessed at.
Unless everyone's income can justify the cost, nothing will change.

I think geography factors in too, and is another reason to compare the
situation with that of transportation. We have roads to every corner of
the country, even if the last-leg is privately-maintained. There is no
comparable option with wireless coverage. WiFi/802.11 is incompatible
with cell phones. We need to approach this like infrastructure, not a
business asset, if we want to increase utilization. I am convinced we
have paid for these "roads" multiple time by allowing them to remain
incompatible islands times over. As an engineer, you might be familiar
with the idea that the value of a network goes up with the square of
the number of connections (and that bidirectional links are mutually
beneficial and don't need to be invoiced for...).
March 12, 2013

evil carrier said:

"Unless everyone's income can justify the cost, nothing will change"
really? i didn't realize that wireless services were essential..if you just need a phone you can get one on the cheap, its the data that everyone seems to scream about. When i couldn't afford the internet I went to the library, its still considered a luxury. and i think there are tons of places to get free access.
A land line is considered essential and you cant be denied that. The newer wireless technologies aren't simply a repaving of old roads, they are new implementations that we will be paying for for years to come.
I agree the costs should be cheaper but they are what they are and aren't that inaccessible (I have 2 phones, 2 tablets all active with decent plans...maybe like cynic, ive been a good customer and get decent offers)
Roaming shouldnt even be a topic here the carriers arent gouging consumers, thats not in their best interests. But keeping that big company who doesnt even look at their cell phone bill sure is. Do you really think your 500 roaming bill makes a dent? Its sad, but money talks. So maybe your statement should have read "When we overthrow capitalism and implement a true socialist model...." but i wouldn't hold my breath on that one
March 12, 2013

Dark said:

@evil carrier
"When i couldn't afford the internet I went to the library, *its still considered a luxury*."

Tell that to the UN.
March 12, 2013

Dark said:

Also please don't assume that because you're in the extreme minority that gets good prices from the Big 3 that everyone else is crazy and should stop complaining. That is the single most narrow-minded view imaginable. Want to know how much I pay for a Bell Turbo Hub at my farm north of Belleville? $100+ a month. Paint it any way you want, it IS in the interests of Bell, Rogers et al. to gouge the consumer as it *makes them money*. They know the average consumer has little choice of carriers due to their whopping market share and scary influence over regulators, so they gouge us and milk us for all we're worth and more. Basic business economics: if you are a monopoly with an interest in making a ton of money, you won't give a toss about being nice to your customers.
March 12, 2013

evil carrier said:

or i could just ignore you and focus my efforts on the guys that actually make me money instead of complaining about everything, you want to cancel, tell your carrier, you wont get resistance. unless you are into them for the phone you had to have. Thats pretty basic business, Im not sure how it gets forgotten. If you are that dissapointed by the big3 try one of the smaller carriers. Ive called their support before and its truly a gong show..i dont understand how the UN trying to get 3rd world countries wired (probably via the library too) has anything to do with our own sense of entitlement..can you elaborate?
March 12, 2013

Grump said:

@evil carrier
I didn't compare a wired to wireless transition to repaving old roads,
but I did compare it to building new ones at a transparent one-time
expense, and with clear public/distributed ownership. I also anticipated
your quip ("When we overthrow capitalism and implement a true socialist
model....") in a message above. Our public roads have not required
rejecting capitalism, or any other 'ism.'

At the moment we entrust wireless service, something that could do as
much to change individual, whatever their philosophy, as roads did. We
simply need to discourage the technological islanding and encourage
competition. If that's "socialism" (and socialism must be a dirty "pinko"
word, the way you use it), something's wrong with our vocabulary. Here's
another ism: McCarthyism.

A voice-only cell phone is still cost-prohibitive (2 to 3 times the
cost of a land-line, which is why Cynic spends most of his time at his
desk, trying not to use his cell phone). Until it approaches the cost
and features of a home phone (unused most of the time, and mostly used
for calls within 10Km of the originating cell tower, with the ability
to pick and choose long distance providers/backhaul technologies),
everyone will keep their land line phone. Again, when spectrum is still
underused, networks are incompatible, and the Internet is being used
to carry everything anyway, at no cost savings to subscribers, so yes,
we can do better.

As for data, data rates are more of the same (absurd), but I would
agree with Dark's comment: data is no longer a luxury. See the
article on this blog from a few weeks ago: "One Phone Call is
Not Enough: Court Rules You Have the Right to Google a Lawyer"
March 12, 2013

Cynic said:


Call me old fashioned but I prefer my office land line for the "heavy lifting". Cell phones are terrific but we seem to forget that they are nothing more than a modern walkie-talkie which means they are subject to the same laws of physics that govern radio wave propagation - and radio waves sometimes don't get through to where they are needed. Cell phones are certainly convenient, but landlines are still the gold standard for business.

Ten years ago, the majority of cell phone networks were still analog so you couldn't send a text message (a digital feature) even if you wanted to. Apple introduced their first iPhone on GSM in 2007 and they are now up to the iPhone 5 on LTE. Today's cell phone networks are totally different than they were 5 years ago. If the phone companies refused to spend $billions every year to upgrade and expand their networks we would still be using analog phones and would have no where to use an iPhone.
March 12, 2013

evil carrier said:

so i guess im done
the circular arguments and assumptions about my intellect give me a headache. good luck kids! i should have known better
March 12, 2013

Grump said:

@evil carrier
what circular arguements?
what assumptions about your intellect?
March 12, 2013

Grump said:

In my 2nd-to-last comment above
"something that could do as much to change individual"
should have been
"something that could do as much to change individual quality of life"
March 12, 2013

Dark said:

@evil carrier

The UN's judgement has everything to do with our situation and supposed sense of entitlement as they were the ones who declared that access to at least a 5mbps unlimited DSL connection was a _necessity_ in the modern world. In many parts of Ontario, let alone Canada, that service simply does not exist. So, in essence, the Big 3 are going against the UN by choosing to not follow what is essentially a rule of modern life. We are getting our eyes gouged out by these fees.

Another thing: most of the people who are complaining about lack of service *would not be complaining if there was service to be had*. It's a vicious cycle that can only be broken by Bell. We don't have the resources to start a community-driven ISP and we'd end up using Bell's lines anyway. They want to make more money? They should tap the whole Canadian market with regard to broadband rather than just the urban centres. Then we'd stop complaining and happily pay for the service _we have been denied since the introduction of DSL and coaxial cable service in Canada_. It's literally that simple.

No, I have not lived on a farm my entire life so save the condescending remarks about rednecks for someone else. I moved out here, ironically enough from the GTA, in 2008. I saw my expectations w/r/t internet connectivity (and most communications links, really. we're still on 3G out here! If you're going to advertise LTE, roll it out in all service areas otherwise it's borderline misleading advertising!) not even close to being met, let alone exceeded. Want to know how far out of town I live? Six kilometres. One measly kilometre is all that seperates me from an affordable communications link. One kilometre. It would only take a few months and a few hundred thousand dollars, which is pocket change to BCE, to stick a DSLAM at the end of my road, and the money spent on building the DSLAM would be earned back in a month's worth of subscription fees anyway. As I said in one of my previous posts, Xplornet's success in rural areas proves that the lack of RoI argument is fundamentally flawed, so Bell doesn't really have much of an excuse to not service these areas.

Also, I never once insulted your intellect. I admit I was quite blunt, but my intention was never to call you stupid. However, since you seem to love guilting people into changing their arguments or mindlessly agreeing with you by twisting our actions and words in a way that attempts to make us feel like we were oh-so-wrong to trample on your fragile little ego, I'll call you stupid anyway as that's just the typical reaction of someone who has almost no valid points nor legs to stand on in civilised debate.
March 12, 2013

Grump said:

"If the phone companies refused to spend $billions every year to upgrade
and expand their networks we would still be using analog phones and
would have no where to use an iPhone."

Said companies have taken that "burden" upon themselves (to thrash
madly, but with very low efficacy); by treating the carrier like public
infrastructure said companies wouldn't have grounds to complain -
upgrades come from the community they affect - and the upgrades could
happen with predictable regularity with full cost transparency. If that
looks socialist, fine. It may be the only solution to the old argument
of perpetual upgrade costs.

The fact is those analog lines didn't go anywhere. The same phone
and cable lines I was using 20 years ago, can carry digital signals
too. It's not the overwhelming burden you paint. By ceasing to condone
anti-competitive access restrictions and demanding more service
interoperability, there would be no such bill, assuming said bill even
exists in the present.

Wired digital rates could still improve, but they are at least moderately
better than mobile. Mobile is a joke: roaming, coverage, and cost, are
all affected negatively by lack of interoperability and access. We are
all basically waiting for a telephone-line priced ISP with home routers
that can act as mini cell towers, that still play nice with the existing
cell networks when we walk down the block.

The only problem is it will never happen in the current market because 1)
such convergence means cancelling your existing service in order to move
to the technologically superior one (Telus has no incentive to come out
with an Internet phone, they have a land phone), and 2) no one with a
vested interest want's to cooperate (use standard protocols, provide
fair access to spectrum, hard lines, etc) to get there.

Before any of the pie-in-the-sky, but available using today's technology,
comes to bear, we will have to address the current actors in the current
market and the current regulatory framework. That means change and
pressure on the major ISPs and mobile carriers to do more for less. As
market providers, they have the role of choosing the details of the
transition, only they don't like like they want to do anything more
than they have to. Any why would they? Our government is complicit in
this noncompetitive oligopoly. That's why I'm promoting distribution of
responsibilities and technical interoperability.

Yeah, it's uncomfortable, but that doesn't mean anyone is going to just
be happy with what they have... For example, happy they don't have to go
to the library for Internet service, or happy that they have a cellphone
at all instead of the suitcase unit. It's like dying of thirst 30 feet
from the stream, with Bell, Telus, Rogers, and Shaw selling water for
$30 a glass.
March 12, 2013

Cynic said:


I'm sorry that I am not making my point clearly enough. I like to have choose the technology that best meets my communication requirements, I don't want someone to choose it for me. I prefer a landline for the 6-7 hours a day I spend on the phone. It appears that you would prefer a cell phone. The cost of said technology is irrelevant to me, I like what I like - it's merely a coincidence that landlines are cheaper to use than cell phones. I think it is wonderful that we live in a country where we have lots of choices. I believe Mr. Geist was trying to create the perception that there was insufficient competition in Canada (i.e. choices in the marketplace).

It sounds like you prefer a VOIP service like Vonage but you are unhappy that Telus doesn't offer a VOIP service. If you don't like Vonage there are dozens of others, I don't understand why it bothers you that Telus doesn't offer a VOIP service. I tried Vonage when it first came out but I found that it just didn't match the quality or reliability of my landline or my cell phone - Vonage had more dropped/garbled calls than a cell phone out in the boonies.

March 13, 2013

Grump said:

You have selected only the most trivial details to summarize, ignoring the market demand for convergence and even basic interoperability. Wireless carriers are simply not moving towards convergence, without which (or at least without intervention) we will likely continue to see the same market segmentation for a long time to come. Mr Geist isn't creating that perception, he's describing it: mobile services are in high demand and low supply, a condition sustainable only by a government and incumbents that block competition and allow the minimum of interoperability. Your open indifference to the hoarse chorus of voices demanding further convergence may mean their voices do not reach you, but it does not silence or invalidate them.
March 13, 2013

Cynic said:


It is clear that you and I have totally different philosopies on business. I am a devoted free-enterprise advocate and you believe the path to prosperity lies in nationalizing the assets of private companies and citizens. Market segmentation is a good thing because it leads to services that are tailored to individual's specific needs. A world without market segmentation means that everybody drives the same car, wears the same cloths, lives in the same cookie-cutter house, and drinks the same beer. There is a reason we Canadians enjoy one of the highest standards of living in the world and socialist countries are struggling to get by. My grandad once told me that we should learn from the mistakes of others because we won't live long enough to make them all ourselves.

I can go to any province and territory in Canada and know that my cell phone will work for me. In fact, I can go just about anywhere in the world and my cell phone will work just fine. I don't accept your suggestion that we lack interoperability of our networks. Mr. Geist wants us to believe that Canadians are underserved but the data he presented doesn't suggest that at all. For example, table 6.1.1 in his second comment about higher pricing than peer countries actually shows the average American is paying 50% more for cell phone service than the average Canadian. It appears that Canadians pay more than Americans for just about everything except cell phones. Perhaps we should be debating how to help the Americans restructure their wireless industry so they can enjoy the same low prices as Canadians.
March 13, 2013

Dark said:

Outside of urban centres, most of Canada /is/ underserved. The closest place I can get any sort of access to an LTE network is Belleville, and even then it's laughably spotty. There are some places, like Frankford and Keene, that don't even have HSPA+ or 3G service, that's how bad the Canadian level of wireless service is. If Bell, Rogers, Telus and Shaw are going to advertise LTE, they should at least make sure the majority of HSPA+ service areas can access the LTE network first.
March 13, 2013

Dark said:

The sad part is that most of these areas in central Ontario are by no means remote. Frankford is barely 15 minutes from Belleville and Keene is just down the highway from Peterborough, so that's not an excuse to not service them.
March 13, 2013

Grump said:

"you believe the path to prosperity lies in nationalizing the assets of
private companies and citizens"

I want more competition, not less and market segmentation is not a
sign of success it is a sign of monoplies, so your summary is exactly
wrong. I won't try to tell you what you believe, I just think it doesn't
work very well. You seem to be using Ayn Rand's objectivist philosophies
to rationalize a dysfunctional economy that is far from any capitalist
meritocracy. At the moment we have what are known as "cornered markets"
or very close to them, and it is the result of government intervention
and law, as you claim to oppose (spectrum regulation, patent laws, and
access to the lines - all publicly-sanctioned monopolies). That _has_
led to everyone "driving the same car" as you put it - or rather, having
the same cell phone plan, if they want to have one at all, because the
alternatives don't exist. That sounds a lot like your worst-case scenario
to someone on the other side of the fence. Government law can be used to
positive ends too, for example, to prevent market abuse and allow those
alternatives to come about before the heat death of the universe. There
are lots of Canadians to whom "socialism" is not a dirty word. (Canada
has many social programs by choice, not by force.) This has nothing to
do with isms so lets let the ghost of old Joseph "Low blow" McCarthy
rest in peace.

As I said, you can close your ears to others, but thet doesn't silence
or invalidate them. If we had anything like interoperability, we would
see cell phone technology in every home router, seamless handoff (making
it suitable for more of the heavy lifting), and we would see lower rates
from a competitive backhaul market. How does that lead to a loss of your
choice (unless your choice is to use something with very low efficiency
made possible by exploiting others)? Your success story of international
roaming implies that that's as good as it gets. It gets better if we can
get the competition flowing again, and we have waited long enough. The
telcos have dug their heels in against any change that happens faster
than they can charge for. It's time for some draino. If they can't
or won't continue to improve service (for example, improving coverage,
compatibility, and price), others need the means to do it. That means
more access and more competition. Encouraging the further evolution and
distribution of Canada's communication networks has nothing to do with
"nationalization." or the tired old socialism boogeyman.

"Perhaps we should be debating how to help the Americans restructure their
wireless industry so they can enjoy the same low prices as Canadians."

They can have the same debate if they want it.
March 13, 2013

Cynic said:

@ Grump

Market segmentation is the process of breaking down the needs of the market into finer and finer detail so that you can tailor your product to meet the precise needs of your customers. In competition for the customer, the supplier that is best able to match its products with the specific needs of the customer will win the sale.

I see the cell phone companies competing on many fronts: selection of handsets, network coverage, network access speeds, features, customer service, and price. You have indicated that your needs are not being met by any of the two dozen carriers in Canada so you conclude that there is not enough competition.

Perhaps the reason your needs are not being met is that none of those companies has built a product that exactly meets your needs.

Cell phone companies face the same challenges as any other business. They are trying to meet the unique needs of a very diverse customer base at the lowest possible cost. The last time I walked into a Bell store it looked like they had at least 30 different handsets for sale, and they all become obsolete as the handset makers churn out new products every few months. The cost of distribution and inventory management for their handsets must be staggering but I'm sure they wouldn't do it unless it was absolutely necessary. It would be far cheaper and more profitable for them to offer just one handset (maybe black would be a good color).

The price I pay for my 3 cell phones and 1 iPad is different than what you pay. But the products more than meet my present needs at a price that I feel is fair. "Free" would make me even happier but I also have to be realistic as well.

Some folks are happy with the cheaper products offer by Wind or Mobilicity but they also know that they are giving up coverage, interoperability, and customer service in exchange for a lower price.

I know that driving a Toyota Corolla is going to cost a lot less than driving a Mercedes with heated leather seats. But I don't expect the government to force Mercedes to match the price of the Toyota Corolla.

March 13, 2013

Cynic said:


Why do you think rural Canada is underserved? Do you think the cell phone companies just have a hate on for rural Canadians? Or do you think there isn't enough money to be made due to the lower population density so they won't spend money building out their networks? What's the solution ... should the government redirect health care dollars to build the network or should they just force companies to invest money they'll never get back?
March 13, 2013

Dark said:

Except that, as I keep saying (and you keep ignoring), the lack of RoI line is bunk. If there's no money to be made in rural Canada, then how are Xplornet, ResTel and GorillaNet doing so well in those areas? The fact is the these areas ARE underserved, and the more you use arguments that I've already countered to say otherwise, the more you're actually proving my point.

Moving to a city is again not a solution as the closest city to my house
(Belleville) doesn't even have uniform LTE service. You can literally move five feet and be back on HSPA+. On top of that, as I keep saying _it doesn't actually solve the real problem_. That is, the lack of service.

Also, if there's no money to be made in rural areas, then please, Explain Bell's deal with the government of Saskatchewan. You know, the same province that is largely rural with cities every 400 clicks or so? The same province, that through said deal, has _universal DSL_ under the SaskTel moniker? Go on, I dare you. Consider it a challenge.
March 13, 2013

Dark said:

In fact, Xplornet recently launched a new 4G satellite. Tell me how they'd have the funds to do so if there wasn't money to be made out here.

Another thing -- the Hastings Heritage Trail, which is a disused CN/CP rail line that has been covered over with dirt. There are MILES of unused dark fiberoptic lines under there. The infrastructure, for the most part, already there. It would be a drop in the bucket for Bell to buy it, and they'd make the money back withing the year from GTA subscription fees and overage charges. There is literally no argument for why they can't do it.
March 13, 2013

Dark said:

Another point -- Bell /already has subscribers/ out here. They have their Turbo Hub service which I'm fairly certain a lot of urban transplants like myself use over the alternative. If Bell were to bring DSL or Fibe out to these areas, these people would switch in a heartbeat.
March 13, 2013

Grump said:

"Market segmentation is..."

Yes, and if the market segmentation is not changing within consumer-driven
timeframes (as is the case), and consumers are expressing dissatisfaction
with the choices available (as is also the case), then the sellers have
failed to adjust and it is reasonable to say that it is the result of
an insufficiently-competitive environment or some natural limitation. I
do not believe the latter in this case. More competition would lead to
more alternatives.

"I see the cell phone companies competing on many fronts..."

In the least disruptive ways possible. We all know text messages don't
cost 1 cent, let alone 35.

"You have indicated that your needs are not being met by any of the
two dozen carriers in Canada so you conclude that there is not enough

Correct. There are also things we could do to encourage that competition:
1) make spectrum and hard lines more available for competitive uses, and
2) make interoperability standards and protocols more open for competitive
uses. Handsets are some of the most restricted computational devices
available. Getting Android (Linux) on phones created a boom and a lot
of money for a lot of people, including Telus, Bell, etc... People want
more convergence, not less or the same (which seems to be enough for you).

"Perhaps the reason your needs are not being met is that none of those
companies has built a product that exactly meets your needs."

Correct, and this is true of many others.

"The last time I walked into a Bell store it looked like they had at
least 30 different handsets for sale..."

I would rather hope they would have started with that, and
created this infinite variation only if it were also profitable (as
opposed to "absolutely necessary," which does not reflect the profit
motive). Instead, what they are really doing is what brings in the most
money in the long-term, even if it would be cheaper in the short-term
to create that one boring, but functional, device for people like
me. (Even service to an old flip-phone isn't justifiable compared to
a land-line.) Instead, they are whipping up a frenzy of colors that
create coordination options for kids who don't spend their own money and
people who do, but didn't expect to use the services much. That's the
modern economy: not competing on service, but on hype. I'm not against
it for anyone else's sake, as you seem to suggest (I'm not interested in
restricting your choice), I'm only against waiting for the big companies
to start addressing the rest of the consumers' needs (like mine). They
may be competing, but it is on fronts that don't affect me, so I feel
quite justified in expressing my dissatisfaction. Those fronts aren't
enough, and competition should be encouraged. They are taking to long
in the area of basic service. The land-line telephone will continue to
be used to as a comparison. Telus could raise the price of that and
I'd probably shut up - not because my point of comparison went away,
but because that would wake people up about the need for better wireless.

This isn't about targeting different uses (your Toyota comparison...),
it's about delaying convergence, and avoiding new competition (stepping
into anyone else's pool) that might see us get there sooner. Again,
that only happens with the complicity of government (which sets the
rules of incorporation).

"@Dark: What's the solution ... should the government redirect health
care dollars to build the network or should they just force companies
to invest money they'll never get back?"

Again, your interpretation of increased competition, distribution, and
the goal of relying on less-centralized organizations for coverage is
that of nationalization. It could be as simple as promoting community
networks that can connect as full peers on the cell networks.

Nationalization doesn't enter into it.
March 13, 2013

Cynic said:


I don't disagree with you at all. Rural areas are underserved in a variety of ways, not just cell phone and internet. Ambulance service, hospitals, Walmarts, you name it, they are few and far between in rural areas. The challenge is finding someone who is willing to invest money to serve the massive underpopulated regions of our country.

In the private sector a positive ROI is absolutely essential. The stronger the ROI, the faster the private sector will go after the market - it's pretty simple. As a private sector company Xplornet also has to have a positive ROI or their shareholders would turf the management team in a heartbeat. Providing service by satellite is expensive (BTW they only rent capacity on satellites, they don't own them) so they charge $85 a month for 5 Mb/s service which is double the price of 15 Meg service on ADSL. I think what you are saying is you want someone (perhaps Bell) to bring fiber and LTE service to your rural home so you can get faster access to the internet at a lower price than is currently offered by the other guys.

Your suggestion to use abandoned CN/CP fiber cable might have some merit if the cables go to the right places and are still viable. If I remember correctly, they installed that cable back in the early days of multimode fiber (prior to single mode). If so, the actual fibers are completely obsolete. Also, if the cables haven't been kept pressurized they have likely been infiltrated with water by now and would have to be replaced. Nothing that a few hundred million dollars wouldn't fix.

The challenging economics of providing services to rural areas aren't unique to just cell phone and internet services.
March 13, 2013

Dark said:

Glad to see we're mostly on the same page, however...

"I think what you are saying is you want someone (perhaps Bell) to bring fiber and LTE service to your rural home so you can get faster access to the internet at a lower price than is currently offered by the other guys."

Not strictly true. While it may seem as if I'm being selfish, there are huge amounts of urban transplants and young professionals out in these areas that are making demands that the traditional, generations-old farming families would never have made. 90% of my school (I'm 18 and in the 12th grade, but don't let that influence your opinion of me :)) is comprised of heavy gamers, MMO players, downloaders and Internet enthusiasts. A good 95% of these people live out of town. In a school of around 950 students, that equates to about 750 people and about 710 households. However, my school is not an outlier. There are also high schools and colleges such as Bayside Secondary in Belleville, Clarke High on the 35/115 and Loyalist College outside Belleville, among many others in other underserviced counties in /Ontario alone/ (not even counting Quebec, Manitoba, Alberta and BC) whose student bodies -- members of the Internet generation born in the mid-late 90s such as myself, and the late 80s-early 90s like a few of my friends in college -- are primarily comprised of ruralites with attachments to technology, but no affordable means of exploiting said attachments. To add insult to injury, many of the mentioned gamers are Xbox LIVE subscribers -- a paid service on top of Internet bills. There are hundreds of thousands of households served by these schools alone that are not serviced by incumbent carriers. It isn't me being selfish. :P
March 13, 2013

Dark said:

Additionally, the reason there is little substantial business in rural areas is due mainly to the lack of affordable links or links in general to the target market. This applies to transport links such as the railroads as well. The community has little hope of being able to afford these themselves, so they would need the assistance of those who could -- in this case, incumbents and the passenger/freight rail operators.
March 13, 2013

Cynic said:


There is an entire generation of Canadians, like yourself, who don't know a world without computers and the internet. In addition to entertainment, the internet is has becomes a great tool for education and equalizing economic opportunities especially in rural areas. Sadly, there are families that live in urban centers that can't afford computers or internet for their homes even though it is readily available. The children in those families are at an educational disadvantage relative to other children who belong to families who can afford computers and internet access.

I don't know what the answer is for the rural access problem or the economic barriers that some families face. But I do know that the core problem isn't a lack of competition amongst private sector companies. Private companies will go to where they can make the most profit with the least risk - it's not a bad thing it's just the way it works. If it was your money and it was going to cost $3 million to punch ADSL out to a 30 hectare neighborhood would you do the neighborhood with 20 homes or would you do the neighborhood with 300 homes? The logic is similar for a cell tower - it costs $500K to put up a basic cell tower so do you put it where you can reach 50 families or 3000 families.

Because you are so young you will probably be shocked to learn that there are still hundreds of towns across Canada that still have no cell phone service at all. It's an economic problem, not a competition problem. Wind could have set up shop in hundreds of unserved communities across Canada and enjoyed a total monopoly and set their prices to whatever they wanted but no, they started in Toronto. Wind is owned by Vimpelcom which is 30 times larger than the largest carrier in Canada but I bet Bell will be offering service in the rural area around Belleville long before Wind ever does. Being foreign owned/controlled, Wind has far less interest in the social and economic well-being of rural Canadians than Bell does.
March 13, 2013

Dark said:

Of course, if I were a large corporation, I would go for the method that offers the most profit. That isn't sticking to urban centres, strictly speaking. The assumption that rural areas have the equivalent of a household every other mile is bunk. It may be true in the more remote rural areas, but in many of the south-central counties, the rural population is quite a bit more dense due to the proximity to urban centres. Shorter roads, smaller lots, and often more people per road. Being one kilometre out of DSL range like I am is possibly one of the biggest disappointments in the modern world. Simply putting up a single CO every X kilometres along major highways and roads would solve this problem, but is, due to market economics, a lofty pipe dream. :<

To define major highways: Highways such as #2, #12, #14, #28, #37, #62 and the Trans-Canada (#7, #11, #12, #17, #69 and #400) -- basically roads that see significant traffic, whether it be consumer cars or commercial trucks. I know for a fact that quite a few of the latter pass through Marmora, Madoc and Campbellford daily as I live in the area, but there is next to no service in these areas, and for big business to set up bases here (which would in turn facilitate network expansion as employees would locate here, ergo more subscribers and more money for Bell), initial affordable high-speed access to the Internet is a requirement, which many areas simply do not meet.

I also didn't imply this was due to lack of competition. Maybe you have me confused for Grump?
March 14, 2013

Dark said:

And actually, an equally as legitimate and far more realistic solution to the rural Internet problem in the majority of cases would be for Bell and Rogers to lift the punitive data caps on their Turbo Hub services. Cost to them to do so? Next to nothing.
March 14, 2013

Grump said:

"it costs $500K to put up a basic cell tower so do you put it where you
can reach 50 families or 3000 families"

Again, the assumption is that it's the sole domain of the Telcos or
people willing to front $500000 to put up stations or extend the cellular
networks... That 500k number may reflect the prices paid, but it doesn't
matter, since it doesn't have to be that way.

You've acknowledged that rural communities are under-served in many
regards. Such challenges are overcome through competition, and communities
are more than willing to get to work... Even with current prices, here's
at least one community-owned network with (more) reasonable rates and
pre-paid that doesn't expire. If they can do it, so can everyone else:

But there's no reason prices can't come down more, and service can't
continue to increase:

"Standardisation enables a wider choice of femtocell products to be used
with any gateway, increasing competitive pressure and driving costs down."

Femtocells aren't fantasy. You can do it yourself, if you want
to, but the government could help a lot to help encourage private
stations (incentivize wired Internet with higher caps, so everyone
can be a data carrier again, rather than a passive consumer)...

Consumer-oriented, subscription-based femtocells already exist (though
none that I'm aware of in Canada), for a monthly fee that would cost
as much as separate cell plans (so why bother?). But why shouldn't
this technology be used to participate fully, providing service to a
neighborhood or a rural town, rather than just subscribe? (I can guess.)

March 14, 2013

Dark said:


That's all well and good w/r/t mobile, but in a lot of rural communities, actual mobile network access, let alone LTE, isn't really the problem. The problem in central Ontarian rural communities is mainly broadband access. As I said before it's pretty insulting to move to a small hobby farm close to a village with broadband only to be told you're just out of broadband access range and the only viable option is to bend over and accept cellular broadband with pitiful caps and overage charges that are more akin to looting than legitimate fees. I would wish for Bell and Rogers to roll out LTE in these areas but it won't happen as that is an economic problem as well as a competition problem, however, rolling out ADSL or evencoaxial cable to rural township areas is far less expensive than rolling out access to the LTE network and in the denser townships like those in Comfort Country that experience HEAVY traffic from cottagers over school and statutory holidays, as well as the Havelock and Marmora Country Jamborees and the Tweed Stampede, all of which attract HUGE amounts of country music fans not only from all over Canada, but in the case of the Havelock jamboree, all over the WORLD (some of these people are bound to stay for an extended period and most of the more well-off people would purchase summer homes in the area if there were Internet access), the incumbents could stand to make a killing in not only Comfort country, but any rural townships that experience similar traffic during cottaging season as cottage owners are more than willing to pay for two Internet connections if it means contact with friends and family.


Hello, spambot. I don't want your counterfeit Nike shoes.
March 14, 2013

Dark said:

I mean, if Saskatchewan, arguably one of the less well-off provinces, can afford to partner with Bell and roll out universal ADSL, then surely Ontario can. The SaskTel network's original intention was to help rural schools, but this could also be applied to students of rural school that use Moodle in Ontario. Depending on coursework, students could be downloading a hefty amount of data per month, and with current Internet prices in these areas, they would be basically bet getting punished for wanting an education.
March 14, 2013

Cynic said:


The idea of community owned and operated wireless networks is terrific. The same model has been used for community owned gas and electricity co-ops for decades. But the reason these co-ops are exist is because the companies that typically provide these services either won't do it or would have to charge an unacceptable premium to those consumers that are more expensive to reach. The members of the co-ops have to contribute a fair bit of their own labour to manage and maintain the service infrastructure themselves. Their costs are lower because they are donating their labour instead of paying the service company to do the work for them.

But the reality is most people would rather spend their after-work hours doing recreational activities rather than volunteering their time to run their local services local co-op.

I am starting to see femtocells popping up in locations all over the city so the carriers are starting to deploy them in areas where they need more network capacity - but they are extremely low power and have a range of around 150 metres so you need a lot of them to provide meaningful coverage. But when you step back a bit, a WiFi hotspot is essentially a privately owned and operated femtocell using public, unlicensed spectrum. The hotspot owner/operator doesn't have to pay for the spectrum but they do have to purchase the Wifi router and pay for a backhaul service. Most WiFi operators use a consumer grade internet connection for backhaul so you typically end up with a 15 MB/s backhaul that is slower than the radio access side which can run at up to 300 Mb/s. As long as they don't have too many users streaming video it works well enough.

Femtocells are one of the next steps in the evolution of cell phone networks. Even though the antennas and supporting electronics come in much smaller packages you still have to hang them somewhere and provide backhaul. Street lights are a convenient places to hang them but most light standards don't have fiber backhaul so someone still has to dig up the streets and place the fiber - that gets very expensive very fast and the towns that own the poles also charge rent. Almost anything is doable but nothing is free.
March 14, 2013

Grump said:

"The idea of community owned and operated wireless networks is
terrific. ... Their costs are lower because they are donating their
labour instead of paying the service company to do the work for them."

At least it's an option for those without acceptable service, but I'm
only showing it as an example of what can be done, not saying that it is
necessarily what is right for everyone. However, you are doing everything
you can to dismiss any alternatives to the current monopolies, be it
community, femto, or competition in general. It's as if you want zero
change, and just want to deny that there is any room to improve service.

"Femtocells are one of the next steps in the evolution of cell phone
networks... Street lights are a convenient places to hang them but most
light standards don't have fiber backhaul so someone still has to dig
up the streets and place the fiber - that gets very expensive very fast
and the towns that own the poles also charge rent. Almost anything is
doable but nothing is free."

Again, you are assuming it's the sole (proprietary) domain of incumbent
carriers to meet this need, as though individuals have no right fixing
their own problems. As only one alternative, if we simply allowed people
to run their own cell stations (legally), the problem of coverage would
go away, for a one-time expense to the interested party, and for the
cost of a few months of subscription. You can't get much better than
one femtocell in/on every house; "Fiber to The Lamp Post" has nothing
to do with the logistics of femtocells unless it's implied that the
actors must stay the same - that we don't need more competition... But
we do. You can continue to dismiss that, but apathy isn't compelling.
March 14, 2013

evil carrier said:

Grump there is a lot that individuals can do to fix their own problems. there are boosters you can get that do the job just right. Thats what Businesses who rely on these services use, but even they understand there are always limitations. The upcoming spectrum auction will do a lot of good for rural areas and the other pockets that are currently getting limited service. There is a lot that we as individuals can do to influence business decisions of carriers, but thats what happened when CDMA (which was rock solid after years of tweaking) was "too slow" for most users. LTE is almost still brand new. You cant expect it to be perfect..or to even exist in non urban centers right now. And these newer networks operate on a high spectrum making them essentially weak signals from the get go....but again, we the consumer demanded them. (i just had to pop back in here because it seems cynic might be wasting their time since they seems to know what they are talking about)
March 14, 2013

Grump said:

@evil carrier
"there is a lot that individuals can do to fix their own problems. there
are boosters you can get that do the job just right."

That "solution" (boosting) conveniently side-steps the desire for
increased competition: it simply provides broader access to a subscription
rate that is widely considered unacceptable. It _augments_ the carrier's
network exclusively, and is a brilliant way to externalize costs; you're
management material. For the same cost of equipment, I could run a full
cell station (femtocell); but, why should I pay the consumer rate when
I am providing my own service? If I am going to provide my own service,
I should be paying wholesale backhaul rates. Boosting is just another
smokescreen to distract from the need for competition, and specifically to
avoid disturbing the lines on the carriers' maps, protecting the current
market segmentation. At present, there is no way to change those lines
without the permission of the government or the incumbent carriers. If
that's not a monopoly situation, I don't know what is, and I apologize if
I am wrong in assuming that monopolies are undesirable in a free market.
March 14, 2013

evil carrier said:

I think Cynic said a while back that we have 12 carriers for wireless in canada. Im not sure but there are quite a few. lets see we have Bell, TELUS, Rogers, Wind, Chatr, Public, Virgin, Koodoo, Fido...im sure there is more. How much more competition do you need?
Bossting isnt a smokescreen, its an acknowledgement of a physical limitation.
But i dont want to argue with you grump. I suspect you wont be happy even if a satellite tower is dropped in your backyard. I just wanted to show some solidarity for Cynic who seems to have much more patience than myself to articulate intelligent points that apparently fall on deaf ears.
Good luck with the spectrum auction!
March 14, 2013

Dark said:

@evil carrier
"but thats what happened when CDMA (which was rock solid after years of tweaking) was "too slow" for most users."

The reason CDMA is considered to be "too slow" by most users is because people are using the Internet and the marketplaces on their smartphones more and more as time goes on. The Internet on phones, especially with YouTube mobile which a lot of people use while on the go (you could argue that it's beside the point of owning a phone to do that but this isn't the point here), more bandwidth will continue to be required for people to make full use of their phones' capabilities.

Also, please don't be ignorant and assume that nobody but those who seen to agree with you know what they're talking about. It won't get you anywhere in debate.
March 14, 2013

Cynic said:


There is absolutely nothing stopping you or I or anyone else from starting a cell phone company tomorrow and offering consumers another choice for cell phone service. In the past 5 years we've seen Wind, Mobilicity, Public Mobile, Eastlink and a number of others do just that. There are also no restrictions on foreign companies coming to Canada to lay a lickin on our homegrown carriers. Wind Mobile (owned by one of the 5 biggest carriers in the world) has been here for a few years now, although the evidence seems to suggest they are finding the incumbent carriers aren't giving up marketshare to them very easily.

I wonder if the good folks at Wind Mobile would share your perspective that there isn't enough competition in Canada and we need more players? Don't get me wrong, I think competition is good for the industry and for consumers, but new companies aren't going to set up shop where the market is too crowded. Not many people would have the guts to start up a new coffee shop in a strip mall that already has a Tim Horton's, Starbuck's and Second Cup.

It was somewhat amusing to watch the steady parade of consumer advocates appearing before the CRTC a few weeks ago lobbying for simplification and standardization of services and service terms for the entire wireless industry. That's right, consumer groups were actually telling the CRTC that the myriad of choices and differences between service providers was giving them a headache and they want the CRTC to make them all the same - even to the point of putting the same spending limit on everybody's accounts. What's the point of having multiple service providers in the market if they forced to offer the exact same service, how do they compete for marketshare?. You might as well have one single service provider for the whole country and empower the CRTC to set the price.
March 14, 2013

Grump said:

@evil carrier
"I suspect you wont be happy even if a satellite tower is dropped in
your backyard."

You are still implying cellular is the sole domain of entrenched
businesses, but you're right, I won't be happy until I have the freedom
to put one in my own back yard myself, and actually use it; I won't be
happy until the market is accessible to everyone, including startups,
or people who just want to solve their own problem. Oddly enough, I'm
less concerned with the specifics of cellular than I am with market abuse.
March 14, 2013

evil carrier said:

I didn't accuse anyone of anything even close to what your paranoid delusion told you.
I just think its important to recognize our own responsibility in the current state of affairs. Its not as bad as everyone seems to be making it out to be. Sure it can be improved but we definitely aren't lacking in choice or competition.
March 14, 2013

Dark said:

@evil carrier

"I think Cynic said a while back that we have 12 carriers for wireless in canada. Im not sure but there are quite a few. lets see we have Bell, TELUS, Rogers, Wind, Chatr, Public, Virgin, Koodoo, Fido...im sure there is more. How much more competition do you need?"

ChatR and Fido: Owned by Rogers. In fact ChatR is just a Rogers label, hence the R.
Virgin I haven't heard from since 2007.

At least two are eliminated already, so really we have at most 10 wireless carriers.


"I didn't accuse anyone of anything even close to what your paranoid delusion told you."

Calling someone ignorant makes me paranoid now? Afraid I didn't get the memo on that one.


"(i just had to pop back in here because it seems cynic might be wasting their time since *they seems to know what they are talking about*)"

Cynic and yourself are on the same page on the matter of femtocell and reducing market segmentation. Grump and I are against you. That suggests you think we don't know what we're talking about which is pretty ignorant.
March 14, 2013

Grump said:

"That's right, consumer groups were actually telling the CRTC that the
myriad of choices and differences between service providers was giving
them a headache and they want the CRTC to make them all the same -
even to the point of putting the same spending limit on everybody's
accounts. What's the point of having multiple service providers in
the market if they forced to offer the exact same service, how do they
compete for marketshare?."

I think you are misreading the desire for transparency with a reduction
in choice. To pick on Telus, in my experience they go out of their
way to hide the true price under introductory offers and contracts and
fine-print billing tiers. This is similar to the debates on "unlimited"
internet. Either I can use it at the rated speed 24/7, or don't call
it unlimited; if it's not unlimited, what are the tiers? If there are
so many billing tiers I can't even tell what my total cost based on my own
sense of usage would be, then I'm going to say it's "too complicated"
and should be simpler. If I have no choice but to take the complicated
one, the complexity will never go away. It's your argument from some-
one else's perspective. People are not opting into that mess.

"There is absolutely nothing stopping you or I or anyone else from
starting a cell phone company tomorrow and offering consumers another
choice for cell phone service. ... although the evidence seems to suggest
they are finding the incumbent carriers aren't giving up marketshare to
them very easily."

Precisely. Why would I bother? If I can't do better than the current
providers, I'm not going to try. It's not worth it. The takeaway is not,
as you suggest, that everything is as it should be. The takeaway is that
our situation is the result of regulation and propriety that can be updated
to better reflect consumer/public interests. As Dark pointed out, people
aren't going to want LESS. We want more now; tomorrow we will want even more
than that. The current regulations and lack of interoperability are
too slow to meet demand. Yes businesses will continue to pop up, but if you
don't change the rules, we will fall farther and farther behind demand.
We are the ones keeping that bar so high. But the current high-capital
businesses don't warrant any special protection. They have to compete in
the present, not in the 90's.

So, we're back to what you call socialism and I call an accessible market.
March 14, 2013

evil carrier said:

... I can't I really just can't anymore. You go ahead and put whatever words you want into my mouth. I never dissed you guys.. Or said anything g about what you may or may not know.... . or even went near femtocel. That's the problem.... So your assumptions are very paranoid and presumptuous. Any idea or proposal has to be practical or its wasting everyone's time.... Jeez.. I'd love a pony too but that's just not realistic
March 14, 2013

Grump said:

@evil carrier
Well, then that's one thing we can at least agree on: we both want ponies. :)
March 14, 2013

Dark said:

@evil carrier
I'm not trying to put words into your mouth. They're literally right there in your comments, lol. Saying that Cynic is the only person who seems to know what they're talking about sort of implies you think the rest of us don't know anything about the subject and trying to deny that is absurd.

Also, wanting decent communications links in areas outside of town is not even close to wanting a pony and seems to indicate that you think of me as naive because I'm under 25. Trust me, I've owned a pony, you actually don't want one. :P Cost more to maintain per month than an ADSL line or two by far.
March 14, 2013

Dark said:

Whatever, though. I'm just calling it like I see it, and if you have an issue, then that's your problem, not mine.
March 14, 2013

evil carrier said:

March 19, 2013

Grump said:

@evil carrier
Interesting post.

Here's my initial reaction... In no particular order:

"Those trends - such as the estimated 49.5% year-over-year growth in
smartphone adoption among customers of the top three Canadian carriers in
2012 (compared to just 28.2% among the top four American carriers) and
the projected 44.5% growth in data as a percentage of service revenues
in Canada (compared to just 24.5% in the U.S.) - disprove a variety of
common allegations, including the one about Canada's wireless market
being uncompetitive."

Actually it only proves that the Canadian market is able to sustain that
rate of adoption. I could interpret that to mean Canadians increasingly
feel that they have waited long enough and, out of frustration, are
crossing that adoption threshold - not that they are being won over
by convenient and affordable service. Canada has a low adoption rate. (
) As you can see, Canada ranks between Nigeria and China for cellphones
in use per person. I don't think that's a very good sign, but that low
level of adoption is obviously a factor in sustaining higher rates of
of year-over-year adoption growth (a subscriber base of 1, with 100%
growth is... *drumroll*... 2 subscribers).

"Canada has among the highest rates of smartphone adoption in the world
and growing fast"

Per subscriber. In other words, of subscribers (with respect to which
Canada is relatively low - again, somewhere between Nigeria and China),
most of those subscribers are using smartphones. Translation: Canadians
don't like flip-phones or the Zach Morris brick phone.

"High ARPU is not evidence of high prices, but rather high usage, which
is typical of any consumer product or service."

High growth does not imply a competitive market either, it just implies
that the market is capable of sustaining high growth. Similarly,
high ARPU only indicates "highly-billable usage" (as opposed to
simply high usage, or separately, high billing), but importantly,
and by definition, it indicates highly-billable usage only among
subscribers. Non-subscribers are not using any service, so there is a
threshold, a drastic dividing line, at which individuals convert from
zero-billable usage to highly-billable usage. Whatever else a high
industry ARPU implies, it says one thing: individuals are not willing
to subscribe unless they can personally justify a high ARPU; Canadians
have a polar relationship with mobile. (Again, our per capita mobility
peers include Nigeria and China, and that's a very good comparison for
what it feels like for a subscriber too...)

"Average revenue per user (ARPU) is high in North America because North
Americans use their wireless devices more"

Again, *per subscriber*. See above. `Nuff said.

"The aggregate market share of the top three carriers in Canada is 90.1%,
which is below the OECD average of 93.3%."

Comparing monopolies in one region to monopolies in another is absurd.
(I'm not going to move to Russia because I see things to fix here.)

"TELUS' unlocking policy is competitive."

Thank you oh great one, for allowing me to buy my freedom (and making
me feel a little like Django)...

"TELUS offers an extensive suite of usage notifications and 'bill shock'

Admitting you have a problem is the first step on the road to recovery.

"While low-usage plans in Europe may be priced lower than in North
America, European consumers often pay for two or more plans, such that
per-subscription data do not tell the whole story. For that, you have
to look at per-subscriber data."

I think we have to draw the line around the subject we are talking about,
and if Canadians want low-usage plans (or, as I suspect, a land-line
alternative), telling them they aren't buying enough socks, because
their European counterparts buy more, isn't going to pacify them either.

(There's a lot more marketing smoke in that post, but I'm going to stop
before I get pink-eye.)
March 20, 2013

Eric L. said:

RE: Dark
@evil carrier

"'I think Cynic said a while back that we have 12 carriers for wireless in canada. Im not sure but there are quite a few. lets see we have Bell, TELUS, Rogers, Wind, Chatr, Public, Virgin, Koodoo, Fido...im sure there is more. How much more competition do you need?'"

ChatR and Fido: Owned by Rogers. In fact ChatR is just a Rogers label, hence the R.
Virgin I haven't heard from since 2007.

At least two are eliminated already, so really we have at most 10 wireless carriers."

Virgin is owned by Bell, Koodo is owned by Telus, Public Mobile is a partner of Bell and Telus, President's Choice is just a joint venture with Quebecor (aka Quebec's telecom monopoly)" So yeah, I think 10 is generous. Probably more like 6 at the most.
March 24, 2013

KH said:

Rogers still charges the 6.95 System Access Fee

Rogers also charges for call display (caller id) and
voicemail as separate expensive options. US voice plans have included voicemail and caller ID as a free bolt-on since the Digital (TDMA and CDMA) networks.

If I change off that 25$ plan, I still do not get voicemail or call display as part of the base plan.

I'm basically stuck paying this. Switching to any current plan on Rogers or Telus would actually result in no savings whatsoever.
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November 25, 2013

Newbie said:

The problem is not the competition. Its the offering
I recently moved to Canada from UK. In the last 10 years I have lived and worked in 5 countries in Asia, Europe and Africa. My first impression of Canadian market is that the commodity (calling minutes) are sold for gold here. Everywhere in the world carriers are finding innovative ways to improve their revenues whereas in Canada we still have to worry about minutes consumption. Also the contracts are so complex and it becomes difficult to understand the impact until you receive a shock next month from the bill. I feel that there is Telecom cartel in this country despite the presence of so called competition. At the moment I feel that Canadian telecom market is a bit behind the developed world or at least from Western European Telecom markets in terms of product offering. Carriers in Asia are even going for cloud services and launching innovative applications for their consumers but here we still have to worry about minutes consumption. Too bad!
December 01, 2013

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December 04, 2013



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December 12, 2013

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December 13, 2013

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December 14, 2013

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