Category Archives: telus

Telus slashing internet usage caps


Bad news for Canadian internet users again as Telus is significantly lowering data caps out west. As an unhappy customer explains on DSL Reports, the company is chopping usage on its fastest-speed High Speed Turbo 25 service in half, from 500 gigabytes per month to 250 GB. The High Speed and High Speed Turbo services are also taking big cuts, to 100 GB from 150 GB and 150 GB from 250 GB, respectively.

As the customer points out, subscribers to that fastest tier will be getting half the usage for the same price when these cuts take effect in February - with no explanation from the company, to boot.

I inquired with Telus and here’s the spokesperson’s full response:

Even with this change our thresholds remain the most generous in Canada. Thresholds of this sort are standard in the industry, and ours are far more generous than those of most other Canadian ISPs, in many cases more than twice as high. With this change TELUS offers a number of simple internet plans from $24 to $60 a month with speeds up to 25 MBPS and thresholds as high as a huge 400 GB a month. Our most popular mid-range plan TELUS 15, will give you up to 15 MBPS and 150 Gigs, more than enough for all but the heaviest users.

Since 2000, TELUS has invested more than $30 billion to bring Canadians some of the most advanced wireless and wireline broadband networks in the world. We have made significant investments in our network so that our customers can get the services that they want within their standard plan. In large part because of this investment our basic service is half the price of what broadband internet service first cost when it was launched 10 years ago, and our thresholds the most generous in the country. In the last few years, rates have remained about the same while the speeds and thresholds have dramatically increased, which has allowed customers to use increasingly data-heavy services, such as video streaming off the Internet. Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on December 5, 2012 in internet, shaw, telus


System access fee lawsuit may be bad, bad news

Just what sort of fear can an $18 billion lawsuit inspire? The correct answer, if a recent change by Rogers in how it bills cellphone customers is anything to go by, is “very” to “pants-crapping.”

No sooner did the Supreme Court of Canada refuse an appeal by the country’s big three wireless incumbents to stop the mammoth class-action against them from proceeding than Rogers quickly moved to eliminate its controversial “regulatory recovery fee.” The company says it’s to give customers a more transparent bill, but given the timing it seems obvious Rogers is looking to avoid possible future liability from what could already be a very costly lawsuit.

The company put the regulatory recovery charge in place in 2009 as a replacement for the system access fee, the hated charge that all incumbent providers had for years been levying. In many cases, employees misinformed customers by telling them the fee - which was usually around $7 or $8 a month - was a CRTC or government charge.

By 2009, the fee was all but extinct because of the impending arrival of new cellphone carriers such as Wind and Mobilicity, who promised not only lower rates, but also bills that weren’t stacked with all sorts of cash grabs disguised as bogus charges.

Rogers, however, was the only provider who found it too difficult to get off this particular brand of sauce. The regulatory recovery fee was ostensibly intended to help the company recover the horrible burden of dealing with the laws of the land, yet it was essentially a diet version of the system access fee. It was lower, between $2.46 and $3.46 per month depending on province, but it was still as completely bogus. (Everyone from shoe retailers to chocolate bar makers have to deal with regulatory costs, but you don’t see them tacking on extra charges.)

Should this mega-lawsuit by class-action specialist Tony Merchant make it to trial and actually succeed - I’m no lawyer, but it’s pretty clear he has righteousness on his side - there will be rejoicing. Even if the lawyers pocket everything and the millions of victimized cellphone subscribers don’t see a dime in restitution, there will be much joy at seeing their former tormenters paying through the teeth. The same will happen even if the lawyers settle for half as much.

But in the aftermath, things would likely get ugly. Just as home internet rates have been steadily rising since the entry of new wireless players, for consumers this is a classic case of “be careful what you wish for.” The arrival of Wind, Mobilicity and the rest has been very costly to the incumbents, and they’re taking it out elsewhere, according to numbers from PricewaterhouseCoopers.

If anyone thinks the incumbents will cheerfully give back a cool $18 billion without taking revenge clawing it back in some other way… well, let’s just say it would be nice if there were some institution - say the courts, regulators or government - that could prevent that from happening.


The bottom line on wireless roaming rates

Last week saw the release of some statistics on wireless roaming prices that caused quite the stir. As usual, Canada came out looking like the worst of the bunch, with some of the highest rates in the developed world, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation.

Some industry members and their defenders took to the usual tactics, which is to criticize the OECD’s methodology. Bell Canada, for one, said the Paris-based think tank’s report “selectively chose one ranking from a larger report that actually offers plenty of examples where Canadian roaming rates compare quite favourably internationally.”

Financial Post editor Terry Corcoran went into greater depth and explained how, as I’ve said before, statistics are indeed like a bikini (they reveal a lot but hide what’s most important). As he argued, if the stats are looked at a different way, Canada’s roaming rates are actually some of the lowest around.

But wait a second - what’s this about Telus agreeing with the OECD report? Indeed, as the Toronto Star reported: “‘We absolutely agree with the OECD’s findings,’ said Brent Johnston, vice-president of mobility marketing for Telus, referring to the report’s findings on prices. Canada lacked real competition in data roaming until 2009 when Rogers ceased to be the only company with the right technology, he noted.”

Michael Hennessy, Telus’s senior-vice president of regulatory and government affairs, expanded on that on Twitter, stating that while Telus disagrees with the OECD’s methodology, it does support the bottom line. The OECD report only counted the two biggest wireless carriers in each country and, with Telus being third, naturally its rates didn’t come into play. To further follow up, the company on Monday announced it was slashing its roaming rates by up to 60 per cent.

So, are Canada’s roaming rates - the money Canadian subscribers pay when using their phone abroad - higher than elsewhere? The answer is found in the bottom line, but before we get there, some anecdotes.

A few months ago, the producers of CBC Marketplace called me in to help out with their now-annual Canada’s Worst Cellphone Bill special, wherein they document the stories of some of the worst customer experiences they can find.

The producers had amassed thousands of submissions and needed help determining which were the absolute ugliest. The vast majority of complaints stemmed from astronomical roaming bills, where using a cellphone - particularly the data capabilities - resulted in hundreds or thousands of dollars owed (I remember there was one story about someone being in the hole for $60,000+). In almost every case, the customer said they simply had no idea that using their phone would rack up such huge charges. Many situations were also accidental, where customers didn’t know to turn off their data roaming.

I must admit that in helping cull the submissions, I wasn’t too sympathetic on the roaming cases. Most phones and carriers today provide some sorts of warnings, either through text messages or otherwise, that tell users they’ve crossed on to another network and that substantial charges can result. It’s probably safe to assume that in many of the submissions, users had simply ignored or overlooked such warnings. I was much more taken by the more heartless stories, such as the woman who was forced to pay off her dead husband’s early termination fee.

I also must admit to being considerably more educated on such issues. As such, I stress to everyone I know that they should buy an unlocked phone so they can pop in a local SIM card wherever they go and use local rates. I did just that last week in Los Angeles - I got a SIM card from T-Mobile for the grand total of $11, which gave me $25 of credit. Unlimited web access gobbled only $1.50 of that credit each day, so all of my needs were taken care of. For a measly $11.

Nevertheless, the majority of cellphone users don’t know they have such options and those thousands of stories contribute to some of the most solid wireless bottom lines in the world. I’ve written before about how Canadian carriers - Telus included - score very well on the Merrill Lynch Global Wireless Matrix, which measures just about every statistic, from minutes of use to percentage of revenue derived from data. The carriers don’t dispute these numbers - indeed, they tout them to investors as proof of how well they’re doing.

Below is the latest Matrix I could find that is publicly available, from September 2010 (click here if you can’t see it). Check out the key chart on page 2 - as usual, Canadian carriers have the highest average revenue per user at $57.09 and the second highest profit margin at 46.4%.

Average revenue per user, or ARPU, is the wireless industry’s key figure since it measures how much money each customer brings in. It’s also at the heart of this roaming issue. The fact is roaming rates are high everywhere, including Europe, which in many cases is the main explanation for why some countries have high penetration rates. Greece, for example, has a penetration rate of 163%, which means that every person carries 1.6 cellphones - or more likely 1.6 cellphone SIM cards. Since Europe is so small, when a cellphone user from one country enters another, rather than pay high roaming rates, they just slip in a SIM card from the new country and take advantage of local rates.

This is the same rationale that Canadian carriers have used to explain their own higher ARPU. In other words, if multiple SIM card use in countries with penetration rates of over 100% is accounted for, Canada doesn’t look that bad. The list below, which counts ARPU as multiplied by penetration rates in countries where it is more than 100%, shows that to be absolutely false.

  • Australia $52.08
  • NZ $59.69
  • Singapore $47.05
  • Austria $38.09
  • Denmark $38.19
  • Finland $42.36
  • Germany $25.24
  • Greece $30.28
  • Italy $36.96
  • Netherlands $40.44
  • Norway $53.86
  • Portugal $28.69
  • Spain $34.98
  • Sweden $$38.87
  • Switzerland $55.53
  • UK $34.68

With multiple SIM cards factored in, only New Zealand carriers surpass their Canadian brethren in terms of ARPU. Put another way, it’s cheaper to use 1.6 phones in Greece than it is to use one in Canada. In Portugal, it’s almost cheaper to use three phones than one in Canada.

In the end, ARPU and roaming both add up to profit - and in that measure Canada is (almost) king. Only Italian wireless carriers make a higher relative profit from customers, according to Merrill Lynch. The bikini statistics can therefore be looked at from a hundred different perspectives but the bottom line is pretty indisputable: Canadian carriers are raking it in thanks to high rates across the board, which includes roaming.


Posted by on June 15, 2011 in mobile, telecommunications, telus


With TV, Telus suddenly a big fan of regulation

You have to feel bad for Telus. Really, you do. After losing out to its wireless/internet/television provider rivals in the sweepstakes to snap up every major television broadcaster in the country, the company has gone crying to regulators to make sure the TV playing field stays even. It’s sort of like Telus wasn’t attractive enough to score a date to the prom, so now it’s asking for special rules to ensure it still gets to dance with someone.

Over the past few years, Canada’s big telecom companies have kept themselves busy “converging” by snapping up TV broadcasters. Quebecor, which owns French media assets and telecom provider Videotron, has been joined by Rogers (which bought Citytv), Bell (which bought CTV) and Shaw (which bought Global). Each company went out and got themselves a broadcaster for the purpose of having some special advantage in their telecom business. Telus, meanwhile, got shut out and is on the outside looking in.

The company has now asked the CRTC to enact rules that would prohibit these companies from discriminating against competitors with things like exclusive rights and preferential treatment. The ultimate fear is, of course, that such discrimination will lead to a situation where consumers have to switch TV providers just to watch their favourite show.

Telus is right, in a sense. Left to their own devices, it’s a situation the companies will inevitably devolve into.

But it’s hard to take the appeal seriously given the source. The run-up to the 2008 wireless spectrum auction, where the big debate was whether new companies should get a regulatory hand-out in the form of reserved airwaves, comes to mind. Telus naturally opposed such a move and in a letter to the Ottawa Citizen headlined “Government should let market decide spectrum auction” said:

We strongly believe that the competitive playing field should be free from government intervention so that companies can compete fairly for customers. Over the span of a few years, Telus evolved from a regional provider of wireless services in Alberta and B.C. to a leading national carrier. We accomplished this not by seeking regulatory benefits, but by investing more than $7 billion in a national wireless network that delivers advanced wireless services like mobile TV and satellite radio across the country.

Hmm. It seems Telus could have avoided its current TV predicament by following market forces and buying its own broadcaster. Better yet, if the company is such a staunch believer in the market, why doesn’t it start its own broadcaster? Why go crying to the regulator?

While the company does have a point, that this sort of vertical integration is theoretically dangerous, in reality it doesn’t really matter because the future of television doesn’t lie with broadcasters anyway. It’s all about Netflix and BitTorrent.

On one front, Netflix and services like it - some of which already exist and some of which have yet to arise - are quickly becoming competitors for the rights to air TV shows and movies. Content producers are increasingly going to have to choose between selling rights to services such as Netflix and traditional broadcasters. On another front, the more that vertically integrated companies try to lock down content through exclusive and discriminatory treatment, the more they will fuel the growth of illegitimate sources.

This can’t be discounted - most people under 30 are quite comfortable, morally and technologically, in using BitTorrent to acquire their content. When it comes to how people want to get their TV shows and movies, it’s perhaps best to paraphrase the Borg from Star Trek: The Next Generation: broadcasters are irrelevant, laws are irrelevant, regulations are irrelevant. Telus’s crying to the regulator, while rich, is also irrelevant.


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