Category Archives: crtc

Roam Mobility wants to redefine wireless service

Part of T-Mobile's resurgence is due to wholesale carriers, says Roam Mobility CEO

Part of T-Mobile’s resurgence is due to wholesale carriers, says Roam Mobility CEO

“Roaming has always been a sore spot, especially for Canadians,” says Emir Aboulhosn, chief executive of Roam Mobility. Given the recent war between the federal government and the industry over the prices Canadians pay for wireless service, that’s something of an understatement.

In my previous post, I wrote about my experiences with Vancouver-based Roam’s service, which aims to provide an affordable U.S. roaming alternative to the big carriers. In a nutshell, I found it to be a great option for travelers, both for its ease of use and its significant cost savings.

At the same time, I couldn’t help but wonder what the long-term prospects are for Roam and companies like it. The big Canadian providers are certainly feeling the pressure from regulators and government on their roaming fees. The feds are moving to cap domestic roaming, or the fees that carriers charge each others’ customers to use their networks within Canada, while the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission is looking at the same issue internationally. Carriers have naturally reacted by lowering their roaming rates and it’s a fair bet that they’ll go lower still.

With that likelihood on the horizon, how much room will be left for alternative providers that base their entire business models on the existence of high rates? Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted by on January 20, 2014 in crtc, mobile


Why Conservatives aren’t winning in telecom

winningIf there was one takeaway from this week’s International Institute of Communications’ annual conference in Ottawa, it was the strong after-taste of winning. It doesn’t have much to do with Charlie Sheen, but rather explains the Conservative government’s problems with the telecommunications industry. Simply put, one of them is winning and the other is not. It’s pretty clear to anyone watching which is which.

The point was driven home at IIC again and again. In my own facts-versus-myths panel, Scotia Capital and Genuity analysts Jeff Fan and Dvai Ghose respectively noted the failures of the government’s policy objectives from the 2008 wireless spectrum auction. With Public Mobile sold to Telus, Mobilicity on the brink of failure and Wind, well, twisting in the wind, it’s obvious that the government’s biggest attempt to inject more wireless competition into Canada hasn’t worked out very well. Or at least, it worked temporarily, but it’s increasingly looking like it’s going to sputter out.

Fan also pointed to how the CRTC’s move to effectively ban three-year wireless contracts has caused monthly prices to go up. That was actually a no-brainer that was easy to see coming - several observers (myself included) predicted big price increases just as soon as the regulator announced its plan back in June.

Bell Media president Kevin Crull spent a good portion of his IIC address talking about how the government’s current desire to implement pick-and-pay TV channels may not necessarily lower costs for consumers. “As we move forward in responding to consumers, we need to be clear that there is an inherent risk. When buying less, the unit cost is going to be higher and overall savings, if any, may be small,” he said.

The best summary of all of this was a conversation I had at the conference with Celia Sankar, head of the non-profit Diversity Canada Foundation. Sankar told me all about the class-action lawsuit she has launched against Bell over its prepaid wireless plans. She’s arguing that prepaid balances shouldn’t expire in Ontario because they qualify as gift cards. (It’s illegal for gift cards to have expiry dates in the province.)

Given how these things go, I asked her if she was prepared for the eventuality that, should Bell lose the case and be forced to sack the expiration, the company might simply jack up prepaid rates in return. Tellingly, she didn’t really have an answer for that.

When critics attack the government for rightly trying to lower consumers’ telecom bills, there’s an almost contemptuous undercurrent to their comments. When they gleefully point out that the Conservatives’ efforts to lower bills haven’t worked, there’s also a sub-text that suggests they never will. The kicker is, such observers are right because they understand Sheen-ian winning.

Telecom companies have certain revenue streams that they’re used to. In fact, they have a responsibility to shareholders to continually grow them. So, a scatter-shot approach by the government that takes aim at one issue at a time - whether it’s three-year contracts, roaming, pick-and-pay channels - isn’t going to work in the long run, because the companies will inevitably just recoup the lost revenue in other ways. Nail them here and they’ll get you back there.

Without some sort of dramatic, large-scale action - the complete removal of foreign-ownership restrictions, structural separation or even the formation of a crown corporation are just a few options - the companies are going to keep on winning. The government, despite its best intentions, is destined to keep on losing.


Posted by on November 22, 2013 in bell, crtc, government, telecommunications


Income levels and the high price of telecom

cell-phone-billIf you haven’t seen it yet, the CRTC’s annual Communications Monitoring Report is out and it’s full of exciting reading. From the percentage of English-speaking citizens listening to podcasts to the relative revenue growth of radio stations, the report has all the bases covered and should be on every Canadian’s required reading list.

I’m being facetious, of course. The regulator’s annual findings are about as interesting to read for the average Canadian as the phone book itself (do they still print those?). Nevertheless, it is an important compendium of essential data that documents the state of the union, as far as telecommunications and broadcasting goes. It is required reading for industry wonks.

The one finding I thought was most interesting is the household expenditures on communications services, which includes TV, wireless, landline and internet, per income level. Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on October 1, 2013 in crtc, telecommunications


It’s time to look at splitting up Canadian telecoms

Chopping_BoardSo Canadians finally have a set of rules that will shield them from the worst practices of cellphone carriers - three-year contracts and exorbitant roaming rates among them - thanks to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission and its new Wireless Code of Conduct. But will the regulator’s manifesto result in lower monthly bills? In some cases, perhaps, but in others, no.

The code effectively makes three-year contracts moot by requiring carriers to divide up the cost of customers’ phone subsidies over a maximum of 24 months. If a customer wants to cancel early within that time frame, carriers are only allowed to recoup whatever subsidy is left on the device and nothing more. They’re still free to offer three-year contracts, but with customers able to walk away after 24 months with zero charges, there’s no point.

The rules also cap roaming fees at $100 and data overage charges at $50, unless the customer expressly agrees to more in either case. Both measures should prevent those horror stories where subscribers have been saddled with bills in the thousands of dollars. Carriers will also be required to unlock subsidized phones within 90 days and those fully paid for up front immediately. It’s all good stuff. Read the rest of this entry »


Deciphering the CRTC’s internet ruling

scalesThe CRTC decision on usage/capacity-based internet billing is out and, true to form, it’s a complex one with lots of digesting to be done. There have been quick reactions from various parties about how the sky is falling or conversely about how the ruling is great for consumers, but the reality, as usual, falls somewhere in the middle.

The decision can be boiled down to two headline issues: the moderation of cable and DSL wholesale rates, and the elimination of any distinction between business and residential services for wholesale purposes. The first part is contentious, while the second one is definitely good for consumers, businesses and independent internet providers.

It’s probably wise to first set straight how this whole system works. Big network owners such as Bell, Rogers and Videotron are required to allow indie ISPs to access their infrastructure in order to sell their own internet services. This has been a long-held regulation meant to foster competition.

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission’s decision in 2011 implemented a new pricing structure on how these smaller ISPs would pay the network owners. The capacity-based-billing scheme charges them in two ways: once, a set rate for every one of their customers that connects, and twice for the total monthly capacity used by the indie provider. Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on February 21, 2013 in crtc, internet, ubb


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