Rogers rolls out Chatr wireless

Rogers Communications Inc. has rolled out its discount Chatr wireless brand targeted at urban wireless users with unlimited talk and text plans.

Rogers Communications Inc. rolled out its discount Chatr wireless brand Wednesday, targeted at urban wireless users with unlimited talk and text plans.

Rogers has set up 16 Chatr kiosks at various malls to help launch its new wireless discount brand. ((Chatr wireless))

The services will launch immediately in Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton and Ottawa, with Montreal and possibly elsewhere across the country to follow shortly thereafter.

"We're working out some translation issues in Montreal, but it will very soon be our sixth market," Chatr's senior vice-president Garrick Tiplady said in an interview.

The line will not be sold in existing Rogers or Rogers Plus stores. Rather, 16 kiosks were set up at various malls in the starter cities at 8 a.m. on Wednesday. And the line has partnered with third-party dealers such as Wireless Wave, Best Buy, Zellers, Future Shop and others to set up Chatr sales stations at selected locations.

The brand's unlimited talk and text option goes for $45 a month, similar to other players in the space, and will be carried on the existing Rogers 3G wireless network.

"We've been working on the concept for about a year, and we knew we didn't want to launch until we were operationally ready," Tiplady said. "Today's the day."

The company hopes that rolling the line out on Rogers' existing GSM and HSPA networks gives it a leg up on other wireless upstarts such as Wind Mobile, Mobilicity and Public Mobile, which have spent billions building new networks from the ground up.

Indeed, Rogers has been accused of rolling out the discount line solely as an attempt to undercut new competition. Much like the other new players, Chatr will not subsidize handsets, and will only be available in the five, soon to be six, urban centres for now.

"We've identified these markets as having the most potential for now, but there are plans [to expand]," Tiplady said. And the company isn't afraid of cannibalizing existing Rogers business, since they cater to different market segments, much like the Fido and Rogers brands have done for years, Tiplady said.

But some of the competition remains unconvinced.

Mobilicity chair John Bitove has said he will file suit under the Competition Act against Rogers for what he calls the chain's unfair business practices.

"We welcome competition, but it's the way they're competing that we object to," he told CBC News recently. "It's right in the Competition Act.… You can't create flanker brands to try and defeat the competition."

Bitove noted that Chatr had specifically chosen to operate solely in the markets Mobilicity recently launched in.

Telus and Bell Mobility are widely expected to launch similar wireless lines or rebrand existing ones in the near future.