Rogers Communications is boosting internet speeds in the Toronto area, but will charge a premium for the service.
The company announced its new Ultimate High-Speed Internet service with a top download speed of 50 megabits per second, up from 18, an upload speed of 2 megabits and a monthly usage allowance of 175 gigabytes in select parts of the Greater Toronto Area. Customers who currently subscribe to the 18-megabit service will see their speed automatically boosted to 25 megabits at no extra charge, Rogers said.
The new service is considerably faster than the best offered by Rogers' chief rival Bell Canada, which has a maximum speed of 16 megabits per second, but at $150 a month it is also more expensive than comparable services offered elsewhere in the country.
Videotron in Quebec offers speeds up to 50 megabits but charges only $80, albeit with a lower monthly usage limit of 100 gigabytes. Rogers' pricing is comparable to Cogeco Cable, which also sells 50 megabit speeds in parts of Ontario for $145 with 150 gigabytes of monthly usage.
Shaw Communications and Eastlink, Canada's two other major cable companies, offer speeds in the 25- and 15-megabit range, respectively. Shaw also introduced a 100-megabit service earlier this year in parts of Saskatchewan for $250 a month but does not clearly promote the service on its website.
Chris Draper, vice-president of product management for Rogers Cable, said the new top-speed product is aimed at households with multiple users and several connected devices, such as computers or gaming consoles. He said the company decided on pricing based on customer usage and trends.
"We put a set of options in front of them to see what the market will bear," said Draper. "We think at 50 megs, right now, this product has an incredible amount of value inherent in it."
Phone companies at disadvantage
The cable providers have a significant speed advantage over most of Canada's major phone companies, which provide internet connections over phone lines. Bell and Telus, the two biggest phone companies, are offering speeds with a current maximum of about 15 megabits at a cost of $60 and $53 per month, respectively. In Quebec, Bell has been hemorrhaging phone and internet customers to Videotron, which offers better speeds and prices.
Many of the cable companies are using a network technology known as DOCSIS 3.0, which actually lets them offer speeds higher than 50 megabits. Those who have deployed the super-fast speeds, however, say they have opted not to go higher yet because there is no need.
"We could clearly go well beyond 50 and 75," Draper said. "We're deploying a service right now at a price point that's relevant given the capabilities of machines in the household and the internet itself."
Canadian internet providers have been criticized for being too slow in rolling out next-generation super-fast internet speeds, and for charging too much for existing services.
A study last week by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development found Canada had the second-highest rates for high-speed internet services ranging between 12 and 32 megabits per second, next to only the Slovak Republic. In Japan, ultra-fast connections of 100 megabits per second are being sold for just over $50 Canadian.
Rogers, Cogeco and Videotron are, however, offering faster speeds than just about every American internet provider.
Draper said he had not yet had a chance to delve deeply into the OECD report.