'Amazing' Manitoba double-data offers spark questions over why only some provinces get the best phone deals

While many Manitobans are revelling in a double-data phone deal, Canadians elsewhere are left wondering why they can't get the same offer.

But one expert suggests the Manitoba deals could eventually come to other provinces

Rogers customer Pete Jansen, of Richmond, B.C., has asked the telecom why he can't access the double-data phone deal currently offered in Manitoba in his province. (Submitted by Pete Jansen)

While many Manitobans are revelling in a double-data phone deal, Canadians elsewhere are left wondering why they can't get the same offer.

"It kind of ticked me off," said Pete Jansen, of Richmond, B.C. "The rest of the country gets shafted and we're paying all these exorbitant prices."

Across Canada, mobile phone plan prices tend to be cheaper in three provinces: Quebec, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

Last week, those price differences were magnified in Manitoba when Rogers offered to double the data — at no extra cost — on 10 GB and 15 GB family-share plans.

Until June 3, Rogers customers in the province can get a plan with unlimited Canadawide calling and 20 GB of data for $70 a month, or 30 GB for $80 a month.

Bell and Telus quickly followed suit, launching similar double-data deals in Manitoba, though the Bell offer has apparently expired. 

Tiffany Shute, of Winnipeg, opted to double the data on her mobile plan to 20 GB. After all, it came at no extra cost. (Submitted by Tiffany Shute)

Many Manitobans have jumped on the deals, including Rogers customer Tiffany Shute, who doubled her data to 20 GB for no extra charge.

"This is absolutely amazing, especially for someone like myself who's almost always going over the 10 GB," said Shute, who lives in Winnipeg. "Hopefully they do share the love with everyone else."

Only in Manitoba

But the deals, so far, are limited to Manitoba.

According to prices posted online, in all other provinces — except for Saskatchewan and Quebec — Rogers, Bell and Telus charge $115 to $120 for a 10 GB family plan with Canadawide calling. That's at least $45 more a month compared to the same plan in Manitoba — without the double-data deal.

"It's unfair for the rest of the market across Canada that we're paying higher rates," said Shane Ritchot, in Dartmouth, N.S. "The network is the network. If I take my phone to Manitoba, it still works."

When asked about provincial price differences, Rogers, Bell and Telus all told CBC News that they consistently offer customers competitive deals.

"We regularly have a variety of great regional and promotional offers," said Rogers spokesperson Michelle Kelly said in an email.

When Jansen, a Rogers customer, asked on Facebook when the double-data deal was coming to B.C., the telecom replied that "the population, the demand and the market value all play a part in the type of plans offered in your area."

Jansen said he found no solace in the response.

"The data that I'm using is the same data that another province uses."

Data differences

According to a 2017 government-commissioned report comparing wireless plan prices in Vancouver, Halifax, Toronto, Montreal, Winnipeg and Regina, the last three cities consistently had the lowest prices for wireless phone plans with data.

While the double-data deals are currently only offered in Manitoba, Rogers, Bell and Telus are offering family plans with Canadawide calling and 12 GB for $85 a month in Quebec, and $65 a month in Saskatchewan. 

For Saskatchewan, that's at least $50 less — and 2 GB more — a month compared to all other provinces, excluding Manitoba.

Following an investigation, Canada's Competition Bureau concluded in 2017 that wireless pricing in Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Quebec "is substantially lower than in the rest of Canada" due to the presence of a strong regional competitor.

The competitors at the time were Videotron in Quebec, Sasktel in Saskatchewan and Manitoba Telecom Services (MTS) in Manitoba. Bell has since acquired MTS, but industry experts have said a legacy of strong competition continues to influences prices in the province for now.

More deals to come?

In Quebec, another factor likely influencing prices is the fact that the province tends to have fewer wireless customers compared to other provinces, said Lawrence Surtees, a telecom consultant with IDC Canada. 

"Priority number 1 is to get new customers," he said.

Surtees said there are also strong regional competitors in other regions: Eastlink on the East Coast, and Freedom Mobile, which has been shaking up the market in B.C., Alberta and Ontario with deals such as Canadawide calling and 10 GB for $60 a month.

That deal prompted Rogers, Bell and Telus to match it in the three provinces, briefly, last December.

Telecom consultant Lawrence Surtees says he could see the Manitoba double-data deals eventually spreading to other parts of the country. (CBC)

As for the double-data deals in Manitoba, Surtees believes they may actually spread, as competition heats up across the country, and Canadians demand more data at an affordable price. 

"Maybe they're testing the waters here first," he said. "Why only do it in Manitoba if you're going to do it?"

About the Author

Sophia Harris

Business reporter

Sophia Harris has worked as a CBC video journalist across the country, covering everything from the start of the annual lobster fishery in Yarmouth, N.S., to farming in Saskatchewan. She now has found a good home at the business unit in Toronto. Contact: sophia.harris@cbc.ca

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.