Canadians love their smartphones, but we're also paying the highest prices in the world to use them ( Philippe Huguen-AFP-Getty Images)

Canada: where wireless is among the world’s most expensive

It used to be when you mentioned, ‘the Big 3’ in Canada, people knew you were talking about Ford, Chrysler, and GM. Now however that phrase refers to Canada’s telecom giants, Rogers, Telus, and Bell.

According to the 2019 report by the regulating body, the Canadian Radio, Television, and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), the three firms together control some 90.7 per cent of  Canada’s wireless market.

In 2014 the government auctioned off new segments of the wireless spectrum to boost competition, but many of the new smaller companies were bought up by the big three.

Fido was bought by Rogers, Virgin by Bell, and Koodoo by Telus. Mobilicity was also picked up by Rogers,  Public Mobile by Telus, Lucky Mobile and Solo Mobile are under the Bell brand.

Although Canadian Alexander Graham Bell invented the phone, and Canadians have been world leaders in telecom technology it may seem somewhat ironic that Canadians have long been told they’re paying some of the highest wireless rates in the world, A new study by Helsinki-based Rewheel wireless market analyst firm has confirmed it.

In fact not only the highest, but Canada’s three major firms took the top three spots having the ‘least competitive’ monthly prices among individual providers. Canada was thus listed also as the ‘least competitive’ country.

Elisa’s weighted average monthly price across the ten MIN monthly price smartphone, mobile broadband and wireless broadband metrics measured by Rewheel’s 4G&5G connectivity competitiveness indicator was overall the lowest among the
168 operators present in 48 European, American, Asia Pacific and African countries.
̶ Telus, Bell and Rogers Canada were the operators with the least competitive monthly prices (i.e. highest weighted average monthly prices). (Rewheel Nov 2020)

The Big 3 were also variously listed as having the highest prices for various data plans, Depending on the plan, Canadian were paying 16 or 17 times more than the least expensive countries.

The study looked at 148 providers in 48 countries in the EU, Americas, Africa, and Asia and has been  tracking broadband prices around the world since 2014.

The latest analysis is based company’s minimum prices for monthly plans for smartphones, mobile broadband and wireless broadband which were posted in the second half of this year.

In its 2019 report, Rewheel asked .” What is wrong with competition in the Canadian, Japanese and US markets?

  • The median smartphone plan gigabyte price in Canada was 24 times higher while in Japan and the US was 15 times higher than median prices in 4-MNO competitive large European markets.

 Canada’s federal government said in March of this year that having a smartphone or internet is no longer a luxury and ordered providers to drop prices by 25 per cent within two years or face legislation.

So far prices have generally been lowered slightly, around 8-10 per cent for many plans offered by the Big 3, but apparently not enough to keep Canadian telecom giants from top spot as the most expensive in the world

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