Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Reduced cell rates in the Wind?

New firm set to shake up local mobile market

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Wind Mobile says it will be blowing into Winnipeg in 2012, and that will mean lower cellphone rates and more attractive packages for local users, an industry analyst says.

Eamon Hoey, managing partner of Hoey Associates in Toronto, predicted Wind will try to attract new customers and steal customers away from the established players -- MTS Allstream, Rogers and Telus -- with cellphone packages that include reduced rates (20 to 30 per cent lower), free phones, no hidden charges and no contracts.

Hoey said that's the approach Wind has taken in other Canadian cities and there's no reason it wouldn't do the same here.

The company's offerings have included a $40 flat rate for unlimited voice services, and an additional $20 for unlimited mobile web services for smartphone users.

Wind Mobile CEO Anthony Lacavera said Tuesday in Toronto that Wind will continue to roll out its cellphone network next year, heading east to Halifax and west to Winnipeg, Regina, Victoria and Mission, B.C. It also plans to enter Ottawa, Barrie, Windsor, Peterborough, Kingston and Belleville in Ontario.

But Hoey said he also expects the established players to respond by ramping up their marketing and advertising and offering deals of their own. That will likely include some lower-priced packages, but not an all-out price war, he predicted.

And they won't wait until Wind Mobile gets here to make their move, Hoey said. "I would say that come February or March you'll start to see better plans coming out and more advertisements talking about the value proposition they offer and how they've been in the market for a long time."

A spokeswoman for MTS, which has a market share of more than 60 per cent in Manitoba, refused to say how it plans to respond to Wind's arrival.

"We will continue to have tremendous competitive advantages in the Manitoba market over any competitor, including the ability to bundle up to five services, the best dealer and distribution channels, strong brand recognition and customer service," said Selena Hinds. "We have faced fierce competition in the wireless market for years and have continued to be the leader, so we're up for the challenge of a new entrant in the marketplace."

Lacavera predicted Tuesday the new entrants in Canada's mobile phone industry will need to consolidate in 2012 as they get financially squeezed.

"Certainly, the promotional activity that's happening now is not sustainable. There's going to be new entrant shakeout in 2012. We obviously want to lead that."

-- with files from The Canadian Press

murray.mcneill@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 21, 2011 B6

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