Mobile phone users in Canada can now proudly boast that they pay more per month than any other nation on earth. Surprise. Subscribers who have made the questionable decision of switching to the deceptively convenient “Chat-r” brand should be advised that they are doing more to exacerbate the situation than they are to remedy it.
In a survey analyzing how efficiently cellphone providers in over fifty developed and developing nations syphoned the most revenue out of their loyal subscribers every month, Canada’s trusted telecom oligopoly of Rogers, Bell, and Telus garnered a resounding and thorough victory. Although in many cases Canadians pay less per minute than our slightly (in relative terms, anyway) better off American neighbours, the lingering presence of system access fees and other premiums which just don’t seem to exist in other countries helped keep these corporations on top. Remember that all of this is before tax is added the monthly costs.
In terms of penetration and adoption for cellphone technology, Canada will only seem impressive if you ignore that fact that it is almost the norm for people to have multiple mobile phone accounts in countries such as Greece, Finland, and Singapore. It’s just that affordable in some places!
Canadian providers also lead the world in contract lengths at three years – a commitment that is unheard of in any other society.
As bad as this looks, some signs of improvement may be on the horizon for Canadian mobile users. Two new start-up companies have emerged this year, WIND Mobile and Mobilcity, thanks to the federal government’s first of what will (hopefully) be many wireless spectrum auctions. But as with any situation involving companies known for their tyrannical disposition, the exploited ignorance of consumers may wind up being the greatest hurdle towards a more competitive environment. Instead of playing fair and simply dropping the rates on their regular service and competing properly, Rogers decided to try and decimate the competition by creating an entirely new flanker brand known as Chat-r.
The idea is to have the new brand pose as an upstart company in the same urban markets as WIND and Mobilcity, with rates similar to what those companies offer, but through a much more reliable network. If all goes according to plan and both companies find themselves unable to compete, Chat-r will no longer have a reason to exist, and its customers will soon find themselves footing bills for regular Rogers wireless services. WIND still appears to be holding its own with over 100,000 subscribers and is withstanding the challenge, but Mobilcity is not so willing to take the risk. This is likely more a bad sign than anything.
It’s hard to say exactly how well both of these companies will fare, but improving the wireless situation in Canada depends on their survival. While the situation with Chat-r should be fairly common knowledge to anyone with the sense to do rudimentary research before getting a new wireless plan, the word still needs to be spread to ensure that cellphone users are not ultimately screwed over by common ignorance. If you signed up with Chat-r, please note that you have made a terrible mistake. As Chris-R taught us in The Room, “-r” is not a trustworthy suffix. “Chat-r” definitely lives up to that expectation.