Xplore Mobile, the company that regulators mandated to become the fourth wireless competitor in Manitoba after the Bell acquisition of MTS, will officially go live on Nov. 14.
And when it does, its 20,000 new customers — all former Bell MTS wireless customers — will be able to take advantage of a first-of-its-kind feature in Canada. They will be able to roll unused data over to the next month and use it then.
Xplore Mobile, a division of privately held Xplornet Communications Inc., will be transitioning customers gradually over the next several months to its new network and do not expect to complete the process until next March.
In the lead up to the launch, Xplore Mobile officials hinted that the company would have some special offerings to make a good first impression as the new guy in the market, one that is dominated in Manitoba and across the country by three national players — Bell, Rogers and Telus.
The data rollover plan is definitely new. It means that if you have paid for a plan giving you five gigabytes of data per month — 1GB of data lets you send or receive about 1,000 emails and browse the Internet for about 20 hours every month — and only use three the remaining two will be rolled over and will be the first to be charged to your account the next month.
Sebastien Bouchard, director of communications at Xplore Mobile, said, "We believe this is the first time that it has been offered in Canada. People use more and more data every year. With the Rollover plan people will always get what they pay for."
The original arrangement as per the Competition Bureau's ruling on the Bell-MTS deal, was that Xplore Mobile's 20,000 customers would be able to have access to Bell MTS's 4G LTE+ network for two years. In the meantime, Xplore Mobile has been building up its own network here with core switching infrastructure now in place as well as building a number of cell towers that Bouchard estimates would represent about 25 per cent of its network in Manitoba.
"We wanted to make sure it goes as smoothly as possible so that our customers will have a good experience and that they are happy to come to Xplore Mobile," he said. "They will be getting the best of both worlds. Yes, they are getting a brand new core and infrastructure, and also benefiting from an established 4G LTE+ network."
But it's one thing to have a mandated head start with 20,000 customers, it will be another thing for Xplore Mobile to retain them and attract more customers from the established players who are already battle-hardened in a very competitive marketplace.
Lawrence Surtees, research vice-president with International Data Corporation (IDC) said, "There is an established tri-opoly of Bell Telus and Rogers. If a new player enters the market they have to do something different. They have to incent customers to come to them or leave the other guys. And this is one of the few ways to do it... and it's not going to bust the bank."
"If a new player enters the market they have to do something different. They have to incent customers to come to them or leave the other guys." - Lawrence Surtees, research vice-president with International Data Corporation
He said, "Customers will say, 'Why should I come to you?' If they do the same thing the other three guys do no one is going to go to them."
Similar data rollover features are available elsewhere in the world, including the U.S., Europe, the U.K. and Australia.
Andrew Parkinson, a spokesman for Bell MTS, said it will always be competitive in the marketplace with its own Bell MTS Mobile brand, pre-paid subsidiary Lucky Mobile and Virgin Mobile that use Bell's network, offering plans to match different usage requirement and budget.
He said, "Data rollovers are pretty rare these days. It’s an older concept from an era when mobile users didn’t tend to use all of their data and often had plenty to roll over each month. With the rise of social media, video streaming and other data-intensive applications, that’s changed – customers tend to use a lot more data now and they choose plans to match."
Martin Cash has been writing a column and business news at the Free Press since 1989. Over those years he’s written through a number of business cycles and the rise and fall (and rise) in fortunes of many local businesses.