Canadians are still paying among the highest prices in the industrialized world for cellular service, but unlimited packages got a little bit cheaper last year, according to a report commissioned by Canada's telecom regulator.
The Wall Report, first published in 2005 by Ottawa-based consultancy Wall Communications Inc. published its latest findings on Canada's telecom industry on Thursday, at the request of the CRTC.
The report looks at the variety of telecom services on offer to Canadians, and compares them with offerings in the U.S., the U.K., France, Germany, Italy, Australia and Japan.
It's the eighth version of the Wall report and on the whole, this year's version paints a picture of a telecom market that is generally more expensive than last year.
"Prices for most of the service packages we examined — which include talk only, talk and text, and talk, text and data plans — increased this year relative to last by between four and eight per cent," Wall Communications president Gerry Wall said, "whereas the price of higher volume unlimited nationwide talk and text plans including two GB of monthly data usage declined by 11 per cent."
More affordable since 2008
Stepping back a bit, however, the Wall Report notes that on the whole, telecom prices are getting cheaper when compared to 2008, before a slew of new entrants joined the market.
"While mobile wireless prices are generally higher than last year, since 2008 when the price comparison study was first conducted, prices for talk and text service plans are 20 per cent lower and higher-volume talk, text and data plans are 24 per cent lower overall, whereas low-volume talk-only plans have increased by 14 per cent," Wall said.
Basic plans, those that offer limited amounts of talk minutes, texting and data downloads, cost an average of $37.29 a month, the Wall Report found. That contrasts with a $22 monthly bill average for the same service in other countries surveyed, the report found.
On the whole, the Wall report found that new entrants such as Wind Mobile, Mobilicity, Videotron and Eastlink had prices roughly 25 to 50 per cent cheaper for comparable plans on offer from Canada's Big 3 — Bell, Rogers and Telus.
Those big incumbents' discount brands, such as Koodo, Fido, Chatr and others, offer prices that are roughly 10 to 25 per cent lower.
Cheaper in Saskatchewan and Manitoba
The two provinces to secure the best deal for a cellphone plan are Manitoba and Saskatchewan, Wall said. Both have strong regional companies, including Sasktel and MTS that are affecting prices and competition in those areas.
"Cities surveyed such as Regina and Winnipeg were found to have lower prices than places like Vancouver, Toronto, or Halifax," consumer lobby group Open Media said in a release. " For example, the same high usage plans ranged from between $62 and $65 in Regina and Winnipeg to $91.23 in Halifax."