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No Canadian iPhone? Blame the government

By Peter Nowak, CBCNews.ca

From the "we're getting tired of writing these stories" department comes the following: Apple on Friday launched the iPhone in Ireland and Austria. But of course, still no Canada.

The 8-gigabyte version is selling in both countries for about $617 Canadian, while the 16GB version is going for about $772. In Austria, the iPhone is available through T-Mobile, which is offering two service plans: one with 3GB of data downloads and 1,000 voice minutes for about $60 a month, or 3GB, 3,000 minutes and 1,000 text messages for $85. The phone is being offered through O2 in Ireland with some pretty crazy rates (crazy as in expensive). The entry-level plans gives a piddly 175 voice minutes and just 1GB of data for about $69. A plan with 700 voice minutes and the same amount of data goes for about $154.

This announcement brings up two schools of thought as to why there is no iPhone in Canada. The school of thought that blames Rogers says the company's data rates are too high; Apple wants people to use the iPhone to surf the web, but offering it through Rogers would be too expensive and people might actually blame Apple for the rates. Rogers, on the other hand, doesn't want to lower its rates because, well, that sort of goes against the company's very philosophy. The other school of thought argues that Canada is a smaller country, and Apple has been plowing its way through bigger markets before it turns its attentions here.

Apple looks to have disproven both schools of thought with this move. The Irish rates are pretty much proof positive that Apple doesn't give a damn what a carrier charges customers. Population size also has nothing to do with the company's rollout schedule, since Ireland and Austria - with six million and eight million people respectively - are much smaller than Canada.

What's notable is that Ireland and Austria are in effect satellite iPhone states of Britain and Germany. After all, O2 offers the iPhone in Britain while T-Mobile is the provider in Germany. Selling the device in these two countries is just a natural extension for these firms. Apple's relationship with the carriers thus looks to be the main driver behind its rollout progression.

With that said, might the iPhone be in Canada by now if AT&T were allowed to operate here? Canada's ownership restrictions limit foreign-companies to owning no more than 46 per cent of a facilities-based telecommunications company, hence the lack of interest - and presence - by outsiders in Canada's wireless market. AT&T used to own a chunk of Rogers Wireless while T-Mobile had a chunk of Microcell/Fido, but both sold out when they got tired of waiting for the government to change the rules, which most people in the industry consider archaic and anti-competitive.

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