British Columbia

Canadian wireless carriers offered big savings this weekend — but were they anything to OMG over?

Bell, Rogers and Telus all offered plans with 10 gigabytes of mobile data for $60 per month between Friday and Monday, which analysts say is a big savings. But what does that say about the profit margins of Canadian wireless providers?

'I think with this promo, a lot of people switched to a new carrier,' blogger says

Freedom Mobile, formerly known as Wind Mobile, is a newer entrant to the Canadian wireless market and smaller than Bell, Rogers and Telus in terms of subscribers and network coverage area. (Nathan Denette/Canadian Press)

Wireless providers in Canada are dialing up off-the-hook savings on data plans in some provinces and analysts say new competition is the reason why.

Bell, Rogers and Telus all offered plans with 10 gigabytes of mobile data for $60 per month between Friday and Monday, which Katy Anderson of OpenMedia says is a savings of up to 50 percent off what Canadians normally pay.

"It's good news, and definitely welcome news ahead of Christmas," the telecommunications advocate told B.C. Almanac guest host Dan Burritt.

She says the frenzy of price drops and price-matching over the weekend was kicked off when Freedom Mobile, a new entrant on the Canadian market owned by Shaw Communications, offered a 10-gigabyte plan costing $50 per month.

The larger, established networks quickly followed suit with all three offering $60 plans until Monday.

The plans were only available in B.C., Alberta and Ontario.

But how good is the deal really?

Anderson herself says she switched to one of the new plans this weekend, spending three hours on hold to speak to an agent.

And while she was willing to put in some precious time to save money, she says because Canada still has relatively little wireless competition compared to the rest of the world, it's not a great deal globally speaking.

One analyst says carriers pay close attention to what competitors are offering in each market in order to match them. (The Canadian Press)

"This 10 gigabyte shows that carriers can and should be offering lower prices to Canadians," she said.

"Forever, we've seen so, so high prices in Canada. You have Shaw offer this deal for $50, and all of a sudden, boom: Rogers, Telus and Bell have it within their capacity to lower prices."

However, she acknowledges Freedom's network quality isn't as good as the other three major players', which to her illustrates the challenges in setting up a competing network in this country.

And many Canadians were also asking themselves: with all these companies offering almost the exact same package, at almost the exact same price, at almost the exact same time, is this collusion?

'Wireless tango'

Gary Ng, who was blogging about the price drops on his website, says it's hard to say if it's collusion, but he leans towards not.

Instead, he says it's a little thing called "the wireless tango."

"I think the companies are just well aware of what each other is offering," he said, explaining that they are quick to match competitors' offers.

"These companies are getting feedback from customers: they speak to retention departments and they say, 'Telus, Rogers or Bell is offering this. If you can't match it, then I'm switching carriers,'" he said. "I think with this promo, a lot of people switched to a new carrier."

Ng feels in addition to more competition, the best way for Canadians to get cheaper wireless prices is to do lots of research and know what's out there.

If it's worth it to pay to get out of a contract, don't be afraid to switch carriers, he said, when on the phone with your carrier's retention's department.

Or, at least, don't be afraid to threaten to switch.

With files from CBC Radio One's B.C. Almanac


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.