Business

Canada among the 'most expensive mobile data countries,' report says

Wireless providers in Canada are making more revenue per gigabyte of data than in any other country, according to a new report.

People are worried about 'crazy, huge overage fees,' OpenMedia spokeswoman says

A report from tefficient looks at data usage and cost per gigabyte for mobile users. (Fabrizio Bensch/Reuters)

Wireless providers in Canada are making more revenue per gigabyte of data than in any other country, according to a new report.

Telecom research firm, tefficient, released its 14th analysis of data usage across 32 countries, including Canada. It found that Canadian carriers charge the most for data, while consumers make limited use of it.

"The most expensive mobile data countries are Canada, Belgium, Germany, Czech Republic and the Netherlands and — as a consequence — mobile users in these countries are using very little mobile data," the company said in its report.

In countries where unlimited or very generous mobile data plans are available, the company found that usage is higher. 

In Finland, where half of users have unlimited data at some of the least expensive prices, average usage is the highest, the report said. A Finnish operator, DNA, has the highest average usage in the world, at 9.9 gigabytes per month.

The industry group that represents wireless providers in Canada, the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association, argues that prices for data in this country are competitive.

It points to a recent report by the CRTC that shows the cost of a package that includes between 2 GB and 5 GB per month is $46.47. That's less than the United states at $50.68 and Japan at $51.81. However, the same coverage in Italy is available for about a third of the Canadian price ($14.35), and similarly in France ($14.98), Australia ($15.57), and the U.K. ($17.61).

The CWTA also pointed to the quality of wireless service in Canada — saying things like 4G/LTE networks increases usage and value for consumers.

"What we find when looking at the available data is that usage is more directly correlated to network quality," said Marc Choma, vice-president of communications for the CWTA.

Data caps discourage usage

Advocacy group OpenMedia says tefficient's findings line up with their own.

"When people pay more for data, they use less of it because they're worried they're going go over their data cap and incur these crazy, huge overage fees," said Katy Anderson with Open Media, who has helped campaign to end data caps.

"Once you lift those data caps we see that people use the internet in such creative and neat ways, and they're not self-censoring themselves," said Anderson.

Anderson suggests more competition between providers in Canada would help bring down prices and ease data limits.

About the Author

Jacqueline Hansen

Senior Business Reporter

Jacqueline Hansen is a senior business reporter for CBC News. Based in Toronto, she's been covering business and other news beats since 2010.

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