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Fast-busy on mobile video for Canucks

The Boy Genius report has dropped a couple of juicy gems in the last day or so for Canadians.  First came the news that Rogers would offer $7/month unlimited browsing and next that we'd soon be able to get our hands on the Sony Ericsson K850.  Finally a high end consumer phone with a reasonably priced data plan!

There are a lot of gotchas here, though.  First, on the $7/month data plan, no smartphones or non-certified Rogers devices are eligible.  The data plan is IMEI locked, so forget about the idea of buying a SIM and simply popping it into an unlocked N95, for instance.  Secondly, the $7/month plan is browsing only.  Want to use the video calling feature on that shiny new K850?  $.25/minute.  Video on demand? That's a different and extra subscription.

For now, video on the phone is on hold in Canada.  If the carriers really wanted to grow it, they'd work out an open and interoperable plan that allowed calls between them, provide it to all capable handsets, and data would be priced reasonably.

Canada is the most wired and connected country in the world.  Not only that, for the better part of the 20th century, the global center of communications innovation was in this country.    When it comes to wireless though, the current carrier monopolies consistently serve up third rate service, plans and handsets. 

Don't we have a right to expect better?

{ 4 comments… add one }

  • Geoff February 8, 2008, 10:43 am

    Amen to that Alex.

    I moved to Ottawa from the States five years ago. When I went looking for a new mobile provider for my wife and me I was literally mortified at the state of the Canadian market. In 2003 I had more minutes than I could really use, nationwide roaming, no long distance, free voice mail, etc, etc – all of this at a very reasonable price point.

    Five years later you would think that the Canadian market would have caught up. Not a chance. Personally, I haven’t seen any changes of any significance at all.

    By nature, I’m a pretty laid back guy, but, man, do I get worked up about this stuff. Worker productivity relative to the U.S. and other advanced economies is a source of ongoing concern for our economists and politicians. I would argue that the wireless oligopoly that exists here does as much to stifle economic progress as our immigration policies. As we commit further to a service/knowledge economy to hedge our dependence on resource industries, broadband access is going to become a critically important factor. And, as is evident throughout your blog, that access is going to become increasingly mobile.

    How will it effect the survival of start-up firms here in Ottawa that are already struggling to find appropriate capital sources when you are spending over $2000 per employee per year for mobile data/communications when your competition in the U.S. has access to the same (and better) at less than half the cost?

    If foreign ownership has no limitations when it comes to extracting profit from our natural resources, does it make sense that it is limited in the delivery of data/communications?

    It’s time to open up our wireless carrier market to all comers. The incumbents have proven that they are unable or unwilling to provide innovation and service at reasonable prices.

    Sorry, got carried away! Thanks for the post, and please keep shining the spotlight of reason on this nonsense.

  • Alec February 8, 2008, 10:52 am

    I had a similar experience, Geoff, returning to Canada from the US in 2001.

  • Larry Borsato February 10, 2008, 1:44 am

    Actually the most wired honor would belong to Japan ahead of Canada. And I had the same experience moving from Boston in 2002. It took a call to Rogers from Nokia to get my phone connected. Rogers had told me my ultra-new phone was inferior but Nokia set them straight. And Nokia told me then that Canada was considered two years behind the US in technology. Or course they are still miles behind my US $29.95 all inclusive no roaming or long distance charges plan then.

  • Shivanand February 10, 2008, 12:09 pm

    I've been in Vancouver for about 6 months now. When I moved here, from India, I was amazed at how expensive it is to own a mobile phone with unlimited data+voice plan.

    In India, in 2000, the 1min voice, cost about 6/7 Rs.(for both incoming and outgoing)
    Today, incoming is free on all carriers from anywhere in the world, outgoing costs about 10-20 paise (India's eq of cents).

    I had an unlimited voice and data access plan for around $40 a month. I could use video, voice and browse the internet, and here it costs me $40 just to get incoming free (local only).

    Sad to see, that a country like Canada, with all its resources (economic and social) is not outraged by this daylight robbery initiated and maintained for the interest of the few. People are held hostage to a mobile service here (3 years agreements anyone?), essentially robbing people of any cost benefits associated with connecting you to the network over 3 years. It's about time that we recognise that some services like cellular services, water, food are essential goods and there should a cap on the amount of profitability allowed on these items.

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