Average wireless prices down: report
TORONTO—The price of basic wireless phone service in Canada has gone up 16 percent since last year but packages with more features have held steady or gone down, according to an annual study commissioned by Industry Canada and the CRTC.
Industry minister James Moore said the report’s findings show that average wireless prices have come down 22 percent since 2008 and smartphone plans have fallen even further, with newer carriers substantially less expensive than the bigger, older carriers.
The pricing of Canadian wireless communications has become a political issue, with the Harper government introducing a number of policies that it says will increase competition and reduce costs for consumers.
Since 2008, it has set aside spectrum—required to carry voice, Internet, picture, or video over the public airwaves—for new entrants, which led to the emergence of smaller carriers such as Wind Mobile, Mobilicity, and Public Mobile, as well as a new wireless service from Videotron, Quebec’s largest cable company.
Bernie Lefebvre, vice-president at Wall Communications, agreed the overall trend in Canada has been for wireless prices to fall.
“Whether you can attribute it to government policy, it’s hard to say,” Lefebvre said in an interview from Ottawa.
“Certainly with the entrants coming into the market some years ago now, prices have trended downwards.”
Despite the government’s initiatives, most Canadians continue to get their mobile service from Rogers, Telus, or Bell that, collectively, account for about 25 million subscribers.
That’s about 90 percent of the total in Canada.
David Christopher, of the Vancouver-based public interest group OpenMedia, which often is critical of governments, said the latest pricing report shows the smaller competitiors have had a positive impact in terms of bringing down prices.
But Christopher expressed concern about higher prices for basic wireless packages—$35.70 per month in the latest report, up from $31 last year—because the talk-only packages are important for lower-income Canadians.
“It’s really important because we don’t want to leave whole sections of our community behind when it comes to being able to access wireless,” he said.