Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Canada in middle of pack in cellphone services price study

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MONTREAL -- Prices for cellphone services, including voice and data, have decreased since last year, putting Canada in the middle of the pack internationally, a new study says.

A typical package of mobile-phone services, including voice, text, call-display and voice-mail features -- has fallen about 13 per cent compared with 2012, said the study, commissioned by Industry Canada and the CRTC.

Prices for smartphone plans that include data fell about five per cent compared with 2012, said the study, done by Wall Communications Inc.

"We're not the worst, we're not the best," Gerry Wall, president of Wall Communications, said Thursday.

"Overall, I would say we're right in the middle."

Prices were also tracked in the United States, United Kingdom, France, Australia and Japan.

For a plan including 450 incoming and outgoing minutes, voice mail, call display and 300 text messages per month, the cost was $44.86 in Canada. A similar plan in the U.S. cost $76.14 and $38.85 in Britain after adjusting for currency and the relative purchasing power of the Canadian dollar.

A plan including 1,200 incoming and outgoing minutes, 300 text messages and one gigabyte of data usage per month was $93.59 in Canada, $145.79 in the U.S. and $63.52 in Britain after currency adjustments.

The study Thursday also found new wireless players such as Wind Mobile, Mobilicity and Public Mobile have helped bring down prices since they launched in the marketplace in recent years.

"Further, the monthly data allowances offered by the new wireless entrants, on average, exceed those of the incumbents," the study said, referring to large telecom companies such as Rogers, Bell and Telus.

Prices for cellphone services are a hot-button issue for Canadians.

"It becomes an emotional thing," Wall said. "Any time you start spending a lot of money on anything in the household, it catches your attention and it kind of bugs you."

The CRTC recently announced plans for a new wireless code earlier this year that will allow consumers to cancel their wireless contracts after two years without penalty.

The code also has provisions to limit extra-data and international-data roaming charges to avoid huge, surprise bills.

The study Thursday also looked at prices for such services as Internet, landline telephones and bundled telecom services.

Compared with 2012, Canada overall had more price increases and didn't fare as well internationally, Wall said.

Rates for typical broadband Internet service went down about six per cent in 2013, but not rates for higher speeds.

Prices for monthly higher-speed broadband Internet services were higher in Canada than in all the surveyed countries at $65.18 and $82.88 -- with the exception of the United States with prices at $99.10 and $123.27 after adjusting for currency and the relative purchasing power of the Canadian dollar, the study said.

Wall said prices for local and long-distance calls were up modestly and, again, Canada falls in the middle of the pack on pricing.

Average Canadian prices for bundled telecom services, which can include landline, Internet, TV and wireless, were up about five per cent this year.

"There's a fair amount of price competition amongst providers. In terms of the prices that we've seen, it's very middle-of-the-pack internationally for us," Wall said.

The study surveyed telecom providers including Rogers, Telus, Bell, Videotron, Eastlink, SaskTel, Wind Mobile, Mobilicity, Shaw and Primus. It has been done annually since 2008.

 

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 5, 2013 B11

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