Missed out on the $60 10 GB cellphone plans? Experts bet more deals are coming

If you missed out on the cellphone plan deals that sparked long customer lineups, fear not. Industry-watchers say the time is ripe for more discounted plans as competition heats up in Canada's wireless market.

Open Media says the recent deals show telecoms can offer cheaper plans with data

Joseph Filiplic of Edmonton says he couldn't get through to Rogers customer service in time to score its $60 10 GB cellular plan deal. (Joseph Filiplic)

If you missed out on the recent cellphone plan deals that sparked long customer lineups, fear not. Industry-watchers say the time is ripe for more discounted plans as competition heats up in Canada's wireless market.

"I don't think it'll take very long to see these deals again," said Rose Behar, senior reporter for the tech site MobileSyrup in Toronto.

"Canadians are just desperate for more affordable cellphone plans."

Upstart competitor Freedom Mobile sparked the recent price war back in October, offering customers in Ontario, B.C. and Alberta deals such as a phone plan with 10 gigabytes of data for only $50 a month.

Rogers made the next move on Dec. 14, offering customers in the same provinces 10 GB of data for $60 a month, plus unlimited calling.

Telus and Bell quickly jumped on the bandwagon and offered the same $60 deal. Freedom then upped the ante, offering a 10 GB deal with unlimited calling for just $50 a month.

Once the cellphone plan wars began, customers rushed to their local dealers to sign up for a cut-rate deal. (CBC)

Many customers rushed to sign up, sparking long customer service wait times, and not everyone got in before yesterday's deadline for most deals.

Joseph Filiplic of Edmonton says he called Rogers twice and spent about five hours on hold in total before throwing in the towel.

"Listened to the same three or four songs over and over again, and then I finally gave up," he said. "I just had enough."

He was hoping to cut down his wireless phone bill. He pays about $160 a month for two lines for himself and his wife, which includes 7 GB of shared data. 

"It seems as though wireless is getting more and more expensive, so we wanted the deal," he said. "It would have been nice."

MobileSyrup's Behar believes customers who missed out will get another chance, as long as Freedom Mobile continues to shake up the marketplace by offering cut-rate plans that lure customers from the big three players.

"There was clearly a need to address the Freedom issue and I think that's what we've seen from Rogers, Bell and Telus, and we may continue to see it as long as Freedom continues to remain a strong competitor," she said.

"It's certainly a good sign for the future."

Katy Anderson of consumer advocacy group OpenMedia agrees. She believes similar deals could follow, as long as Canadians put pressure on their providers — especially those customers who tried but failed to lower their bill this time around.

"I hope that we'll see kind of like a backlash of outrage as people complain about not getting it, and I hope that the companies take notice," she said. 

"It's a wake-up call to Canadians that these companies can offer those prices if they're pushed to."

The high price of data

Anderson says it's a good time to pressure providers because our demand for wireless data is climbing — and so are the prices.

A federal government-commissioned report published last week found Canadians pay some of the highest prices in the industrialized world for phone plans with data.

According to the report, the average monthly price of a plan with unlimited calling and 5 GB of data is now $104.49 — an increase of 8.2 per cent compared to last year.

And a recent CRTC report said Canadians' wireless data usage jumped nearly 25 per cent from 2015 to 2016.

"Data usage is skyrocketing for all age brackets," Anderson said. "Your grandma has a cellphone now with data and she's on Facebook.

"So I think it's really important that we see the higher data package prices go down."

CBC News asked all four telecoms involved in the price war if there will be more deals to come.

Freedom said customers can still get deals such as $50 a month for 10 GB of data, but minus unlimited calling.

Telus said it offered its $60 10 GB deal in response to "a competitor's offer" and didn't address future plans.

Both Bell and Rogers said they generally offer holiday promotions and that they'll continue to offer competitive deals.

Rogers customer Joseph​ Filiplic doesn't want to wait for the next big offer. Instead, as Open Media suggests, he plans to call the company when he has more time over the holidays and ask for the $60 10 GB deal he missed out on.

"I'm going to give it a shot," the teacher said. "We know they can do it, so why don't they offer it all the time?"

CBC News asked Rogers, Bell and Telus why they don't offer the $60 deal on a permanent basis. None responded.

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