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Wireless Networking Hardware

Canadians Pay Extra For Their Wireless Hardware 352

Posted by timothy
from the y'know-value-added-and-all dept.
Todd Alivoy writes "Looks like Canadian wireless subscribers have been getting hosed when looking to get new hardware. This isn't the first time Canadian carriers have managed to charge far more than thier US conterparts for the same services. Anyone up there know why? It sure isn't the exchange rates." The linked article shows the price disparity for 14 phones available in both markets.
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Canadians Pay Extra For Their Wireless Hardware

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  • Re:50lu710n (Score:5, Informative)

    by Mitreya (579078) <mitreya@gmail.LAPLACEcom minus math_god> on Monday January 12, 2004 @11:22PM (#7959723)
    Solution: Buy phones in the US.

    I am not familiar with the way cell phones work in Canada, but I would guess your suggestion would not work. If I purchase a phone in US, I cannot transfer it to another US company because of the so called provider optimization (a.k.a. cell phone lockdown). I had two absolutely exactly same cell phones, one AT&T, another non-AT&T from a friend. Once my AT&T phone died, they would not switch my service to the other phone, claiming that it has been optimized for another provider. So I would not be surprised if cell phone companies found a way to block US-to-Canada phone transfer.

  • Rogers Wireless (Score:5, Informative)

    by va3atc (715659) * on Monday January 12, 2004 @11:37PM (#7959835) Homepage Journal
    I have a Rogers AT&T (Canada) phone (Pay as you go) and I get charged airtime when someone calls to leave me a message on the voicemail.

    So I called up Rogers and asked them to deactive the voicemail, so they did. Now whenever someone calls they get "This costumer needs to setup there voicemail etc etc" and I still get charged airtime! (even when the phone is powered down)

    I've called around to all the other cellphone carriers and none of them are this freakin' crazy.

    Basically my plan of attack is sell the phone (brand new which seems like a waste) and go with someone like Bell or Telus.

    Anyone want a phone ;-)
  • We get hosed ... (Score:4, Informative)

    by serialdj (593159) on Monday January 12, 2004 @11:38PM (#7959843)
    Because unlike the U.S. we here in Canada have only four cellular carriers, and if you want to 1X, or GSM then there are only two carriers.

    No Competition means higher rates, no reason to lower them, who else are you going to go to.

  • Re:Simple (Score:2, Informative)

    by futuramarama (687115) on Monday January 12, 2004 @11:41PM (#7959861)
    Australia has a similar size/population ratio to Canada (and something like 99% coverage for mobiles), and yet it seems our prices are somewhere closer to the US than Canadian ones.

    (I haven't been able to do a proper comparision, since it seems the model numbers differ, but we do get most phones free with plans).

    Besides, the government could easily subsidize the rural towers (rural sector is fairly heavily subsidized anyway)
  • by JumperCable (673155) on Monday January 12, 2004 @11:43PM (#7959874)
    I don't know the answer but here are some interesting stats on Canadian wireless:

    http://www.cwta.ca/industry_guide/facts.php3 [www.cwta.ca]

    ...maybe it's because the Canadian phones need to include both French & English?

    You know you could really save a lot of money if your country went ahead and consolidated to using just French.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 12, 2004 @11:46PM (#7959889)
    bell 2 yr contract. $35. free unlimited evenings and weekends (6 pm to 8 am. yes, 14 hours FREE). upgraded to a samsung phone from the crap motorola i had with the free tech upgrade. customer service is unbelievable. mind you, i have a low daytime minutes per month, but hey, why would i answer my personal phone when i am at work?

    so how is $35 a month for a free phone and unlimited evenings and weekends expensive?
  • Re:50lu710n (Score:4, Informative)

    by Lehk228 (705449) on Tuesday January 13, 2004 @12:04AM (#7960001) Journal
    Subsidy lockout exists because cell phones don't actually cost $50-$100, they are alot more and the provider pays most of that price counting on customers using their service long enough to make up their investment, if you buy a phone at it's actual cost you will be able to use it on any compatable network, but with the mess that is the current cell network in the US i'll stick to subsidy locked cheap phones for now.
  • Maybe it's karma? (Score:2, Informative)

    by decimal0 (721072) on Tuesday January 13, 2004 @12:19AM (#7960078)
    ...to make up for their relatively affordable internet access. [slashdot.org]
  • Access Fee Insanity (Score:5, Informative)

    by RedSynapse (90206) on Tuesday January 13, 2004 @12:24AM (#7960097)
    I live in Canada and the one thing that made me give up my cell phone plan was the dreaded monthly "Access Fee."

    I had a plan that was $20 for 200 minutes any time, but on top of this EVERYONE is required to pay a $7.95 access fee regardless of what plan they're using. So if you're a businessperson with a $100 a month plan you end up paying what amounts to an 8% tax, but if you are a po' ass student like me you end up paying an insane %40 tax (plus you also have to pay %15 tax on top of the total amount). INSANE.

    All providers in Canada charge this fee. It seems to be governemnt mandated, although I think I read once that the individual providers are allowed to set what the fee is but they all decided to make it 7.95.

    IMHO this is why we don't have wider adoption of mobible phones in Canada.

    Also I'm not sure how it is in other countries but every text message you send with SMS costs 10 cents. So if you want to send a text message to your friend's mobile phone that says "Hi Jane how are you?" that's ten cents.. then if she replies "I'm good, yourself?" another ten cents, and on and on. My carrier (fido) had a "introductory period" where they gave away the text messaging for free and a lot of people were using it. Now that it's 10 cents per message (I think it's max 256 characters) NOBODY USES IT. I mean come on, does it really cost them 10 cents to transmit a 256 character max plain text message? I think if they charged 1 cent per message they would make more money because people would actually use the service.
  • by RhetoricalQuestion (213393) on Tuesday January 13, 2004 @12:51AM (#7960232) Homepage

    ...a fact of which I am deeply ashamed.

    And the short answer is "it's more expensive because they can get away with it."

    But yes, it does come down to basic economic, with the corporate greed angle tossed in. Canada is a smaller market, with fewer competitors (4 national, plus a few regional). So the wireless carriers CAN charge more because the consequences of doing so not as great. Plus, the major carriers tend to follow each other quite closely. If one finds a way to charge more for something and get away with it, the others will quickly follow -- why should the other guy be the only one to make more?

    IMO, the Canadian wireless industry is not particularly customer oriented -- they are competitor-oriented. It's not so much about "how can I win more customers through my excellent handsets and plan" as it is about "how can I get my ARPU higher than the competitors and my Churn lower, thus sticking it to the competition when the rankings are published." If the customer happens to benefit, it's a nice consequence.

    That's why the CityFido plan (you probably haven't heard of this unless you're in Vancouver, but you can transfer your landline number to a wireless number, and you get $40/month unlimited local calling) sent the Canadian wireless industry into a tizzy. The other 3 national carriers began running some pretty harsh Fido switch promotions -- particularly on the East coast, where Fido is based. Makes some sense on a competitor level (take out Fido where they are strongest) but not on a consumer level (Easterners who've never heard of CityFido can't understand why the big 3 carriers are all going after the little guy.)

    Mind you, Fido has had financial difficulties lately, so they probably had to pull a gutsy move like this. The rest of the industry doesn't see how Fido's model is sustainable.

    But on the other hand, some stuff just costs more here. Hence the people who cross the boarder every month to shop.

  • by thexdane (148152) on Tuesday January 13, 2004 @01:20AM (#7960377)
    well that's all well and good that they say a phone costs this much, but there's one small fact that they're missing ALL canadian providers give you a discount on the phone for a term contract, so in reality you DON'T pay the full price

    all the phones they listed are the base price WITHOUT a package deal, and most of the american conterparts had a thing about it being free with a deal and such

    the thing most people don't realise is that america has 300 million people canada has 30 million. another thing is that most phones aren't made in canada, the blackberry is the exceptoin so there's an import and other such taxes and special chips and such.
  • Re:Simple (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 13, 2004 @01:24AM (#7960398)
    Winnipeg, Regina, Calgary and Vancouver are all on Highway 1. It's a long highway. If you want to compete on the Canadian cell market you gotta have coverage on the highways as well as the cities.

    Rogers and Telus has coverage from Vancouver to Calgary to Edmonton. Rogers has from Calgary to Regina to the 'Peg and more.

    That's a LOT of towers. You're paying for those towers. If you want a cheap Canadian cellphone, get a Fido but don't expect it to work outside the cities.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 13, 2004 @02:00AM (#7960557)
    Actually, Fido is a company based in Montreal, Quebec, not Ontario.

    And Ontario & Quebec is considered as the "East" of Canada. NB/NS/PEI/NF are considered as the Maritimes.

    I know, I work for the dog.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 13, 2004 @02:05AM (#7960574)
    The model is sustainable because the majority of the CityFido subscribers are not actual Fido customers, they are NEW customers who are switching their landline to a mobile on the CityFido service.

    Also, most of them are spending a shitload of money on extras: LD bundles, Call Display, Voicemail, GPRS, etc.

    Believe me, CityFido is VERY sustainable for Fido because it doesn't affect another Fido's business, where as Telus Mobility can't really do that because its hurting Telus, Bell Mobility can't do the same because it'd be hurting Bell, and Rogers... well they're planning on launching local phones services too so...

    Also, most of CityFido customers don't have only one line, they have 3-5 for the whole house family.

    Before CityFido, I didn't encounter that many CONSUMER accounts with 4-5 lines and spending 400-500$ a month. It's quite usual now in Vancouver. (Yes, I'm a Fido CSR)

  • Re:Simple (Score:4, Informative)

    by mark*workfire (220796) on Tuesday January 13, 2004 @02:15AM (#7960600)
    Its much simpler to do what I did.

    I wanted a Sony T68i phone. Rogers wanted $699 for it, or $399 with a 3 year contract. I don't do contracts since if I'm not happy with the service, I switch. So, off to eBay I went, and voila, for a grand total of $125 Canadian including shipping I bought myself a T68i *unlocked*.

    Off to Radio Shack for a Rogers SIM I signed up for an account and have been using it with no problem. Even better, I'm in Europe this month, and simply popped in a SIM from our office over here and have nice GSM service wherever I happen to go over here.

    Try that with a Rogers LOCKED Sony phone. Many thanks to eBay!!!

  • by storem (117912) on Tuesday January 13, 2004 @02:18AM (#7960606) Homepage
    Isn't it so that US is cheap and all other countries tend to be more expensive? Look at some Belgian prices:
    • Motorola v66i: 239 EUR = $287
    • Nokia 3300: 330 EUR = $396
    • Nokia 6800: 439 EUR = $539
    • Siemens SL55: 449 EUR = $539
    • SonyEricsson T200: 159 EUR = $191
    • SonyEricsson T610: 349 EUR = $419
    • SonyEricsson P800: 849 EUR = $1019

    1 EUR = $1.2
    Actually it would be better not to account the exchange rate. Use 1/1 for comparison.

    These prices don't include a plan. Most quality phones simply don't come with a plan in Belgium. They are more focused on the cheaper phones.

    BTW: Why doesn't /. accept &euro; ?

  • by Nogami_Saeko (466595) on Tuesday January 13, 2004 @04:14AM (#7961023)
    The other advantage beside new customers are existing customers who have switched plans because of CityFido. I was previously on a plan that was around $25/month + license fee. I "usually" came in under my minutes per-month, but it was a no-brainer to switch to CityFido for $40 and not ever have to worry about monitoring minutes, not to mention not paying the extra license fee directly.

    Basically turns your cell phone into the equivilent of a city-wide cordless phone, which is just amazingly convenient.

    Needless to say, kids love it - unlimited chat time with their friends. All of my friends (mid-20s/early 30s) have switched to it - the only people who havn't I would classify as "uninformed", "live in rural areas where they get no service", or are "locked into long contracts with other providers "(fools).

    As far as wireless pricing goes, Fido does need to compete a better. For instance, they're selling a P800 (SP locked) for $1,000 Cdn which is just plain stupid. I picked up my (unlocked) P800 a month before Fido introduced theirs for $900 taxes in. This was over 6 months ago, and the price hasn't budged, despite the costs dropping like a rock.

    I suppose uninformed consumers (the vast majority) have no idea what the real prices for the phones are. Until you get digging on the net and look for pricing you don't see how much you're losing-out, although even then, people are scared-off by compatibility concerns and such which providers help foster (to keep customers "buying local").

    At one point, Rogers AT&T was even refusing to sell local SIM cards to GSM phone users unless they purchased the handset as well (to lock them into a longterm contract, as well as making $$$ on a handset).

    N.
  • by tamarian (712536) on Tuesday January 13, 2004 @10:17AM (#7962531) Homepage
    I subscribe to data only, "unlimited" GPRS plan from Fido @ $60 /month.

    I just got a mail from Fido that the unlimited plan has a limit of 1 gigabyte per month. Their lettre allowed me up to the end of the month to "correct" my usage or "you will be contacted to help you limit your usage".

    Now, $60 a month for 1 Gig total may sound like an overkill, and it is considering that in Canada you pay only CDN$ 44/month for unlimited high speed cable connection downloading ISO's in less than an hour, but other wireless providers, like Bell, Tellus and AT&T Rogers, charge $10 per megabyte. Most don't offer a limited "unlimited" plans, and some offer an unlimited period for the first couple of months as a promotion.

    If you monitor a remote server, and leave "top" running 24 hrs a day, you'll break the one gig limit within a couple of days.

    Now I started to switch cards on my Zaurus, GPRS card when no Wifi siganl is available, and switch to Wifi when I find it. It's a PITA to try to stay within the unlimited limit. It's a hassle, since it will break your SSH connection, and need to reconnect.

    As for hardware, the few wireless providers here in Canada who know what a CF card format is, charge $400-$500 dollars for them, and they all have firmware to not be compatible with any other provider. The only exception I found is Fido, where I was able to purchase a card from the US on eBay, and plug into the Fido GPRS network. It only took me 3 phone calls to convince the tech support I don't need to purchase any phones from them, and that my CF card works just like their own PCMCIA cards.

    Of course, you can subscribe to US providers from Canada, however you'll be paying roaming fees, so it's not that practical.

  • by RhetoricalQuestion (213393) on Tuesday January 13, 2004 @10:37AM (#7962733) Homepage

    From an operational perspective, the wireless and wireline businesses of both Bell Mobility and Telus Mobility are entirely separate. One side doesn't pay much attention to the other. So the sustainability question is not around where the business is going to come from (that's obvious -- who wouldn't want $40 unlimited?) but about how Fido can become increasingly profitable while charging so little.

    That is, the big 3 are worried about CityFido pushing the precious ARPU down. Again, attracting new customers is important, but not at the cost of potentially making less per customer. For example, you may have noticed that all the wireless carriers have changed the Evenings clock to start later -- it increases overage minutes, thus increasing ARPU. Customer is screwed over, but hey, higher profits. And since all of them started doing this, competition benefits no one. (I saw a presentation on this a while back; did I mention I'm ashamed of where I work?)

    Then again, (just musing here) the sustainability issue may be simply be fear-mongering. Fido, having gone through financial trouble, is probably in the best position to sustain a lower ARPU model since (frankly) they don't need to worry as much about being less profitable than last year. (And with the lowest ARPU in Canada, the CityFido plan probably pushes the numbers up.)

    I'm not knocking Fido -- I think the CityFido plan is a good strategy. But the rest of the Canadian industry fear that this will bring profits down.

    Oh, just for those who think I flunked geography, I accidentally used internal language, where West Coast = BC+AB, East Coast = ON+PQ, Atlantic = NB+NS+PEI+NF, MB=MB and SK=SK. (It confused me when I started here.)

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