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Canada 'falling behind' on cellphone plans, even with new unlimited options

High school girl in school corridor looking at smartphone, over shoulder view

Over the past month, Canada’s Big Three cellphone providers have been busy rolling out so-called unlimited data plans that don’t include overage fees for going over data limits.

But one consumer advocacy group says that, while the plans are a step in the right direction, they do not go far enough in terms of improving options for consumers and are “still prohibitively expensive.”

Marie Aspiazu, a campaigner with Open Media, said the introduction of data plans without overage fees by the mainstream providers is long overdue in Canada.

“It’s definitely better than nothing... but we’re still falling behind our international counterparts when it comes to data plans,” she said in an interview.

“Ten gigabytes for $75 a month is still prohibitively expensive for a lot of people, especially lower income individuals.”

This week, Telus Corp. introduced a new rate plan that will give customers unlimited data, eliminating overage fees and instead reducing transfer speed to 512 kilobits per second when data limits are reached.

Jim Senko, president of Telus Mobility Solutions, said that the Vancouver-based company struck a balance between satisfying the growing demand for wireless data and the capabilities of the network that delivers it.

The Telus plans come a few weeks after Rogers rolled out a similar unlimited plan, offering $75 per month for 10 gigabytes of full-speed data usage, followed by unlimited data but at reduced speeds. Bell followed suit with a similar limited-time promotion that it has since made permanent. Unlimited data plans were already available in Canada from three smaller carriers (SaskTel, Freedom Mobile and Chatr), according to WhistleOut.ca, a website that compares Canadian wireless plans.

Aspiazu says that the timing of the new wireless plans coincides with a Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) review of the Canadian mobile wireless market that is focusing on “whether further action is required to improve choice and affordability for Canadians.”

“I think they’re doing this to show they’re making an effort to tackle affordability and offer more plans to customers,” she said. “But again, it just doesn’t go far enough... It all comes back to a lack of competition. That is the fundamental problem of our phone market.”

WhistleOut.ca

Best and worst plans in Canada

When it comes to which wireless carriers offer the best plans, it will depend on a range of factors, including how the customer wants to use the phone and where the customer is located.

WhistleOut.ca lists the cheapest and most expensive options for data-heavy plans across the country.

The cheapest:

Freedom Mobile’s Big Gig + Talk 10GB plan (with 5GB of bonus data) as the cheapest plan at $50 a month for 12 months.

The most expensive:

Fido’s $170 a month Plan with Pulse, which also includes 15GB of data on the Rogers network.

With files from the Canadian Press

Yahoo Finance Canada Morning Brief