Canada’s big three wireless carriers are fighting a heated battle for multiple-device users this holiday season.
Telus Corp., which reported a higher third-quarter profit on Friday, joined larger rivals Rogers Communications Inc. and BCE Inc. by introducing new promotions this week that feature flat-rate calling and texting, while allowing consumers to share data plans among multiple devices.
In doing so, carriers are narrowing their focus on top-end mobile users who are more likely to drive wireless data growth through the use of both smartphones and tablets.
Tablets can now be found in almost 24 per cent of online households in Canada and sales between now and mid-February are expected to top the one million mark for all brands, said Kaan Yigit, president of Solutions Research Group.
Still, the vast majority of tablet users have been reticent to purchase dedicated data plans, opting instead to run the devices on WiFi only. But with tablets, such as the iPad, Microsoft Surface and Google’s Nexus 10, expected to top holiday wish lists this year, Canadian carriers are following the example of their U.S. peers by seizing on an opportunity to fuel incremental data revenue growth.
“That data can be pooled with other devices you have or (with) other members of your family,” said Telus’s chief financial officer Robert McFarlane, noting data sharing eliminates the need for consumers to buy individual data plans for each device.
Flat rate calling and texting, meanwhile, provides more “cost certainty” for consumers using those services, he added. Analysts, however, are waiting to see if the new promotions put more pressure on pricing and, ultimately, revenues down the road. With roughly 7.6 million wireless subscribers, Telus is Canada’s third-largest mobile carrier.
Earlier in the day, Telus boosted its quarterly dividend by 3 cents to 64 cents after reporting a third-quarter profit of $351-million or $1.07 per diluted share. That compared to earnings of $326-million or $1 per diluted share for the same period last year.
Operating revenue for the three months ended Sept. 30, 2012 rose by nearly 6 per cent to $2.77-billion.
During the July-to-September quarter, Telus recorded higher wireless revenue as more consumers flocked to smartphones. Additionally, the growing popularity of tablets, roaming and text messaging helped the company report a 23-per-cent increase in data revenue.
Telus also announced that Mr. McFarlane plans to retire at the end of the year and will be replaced by John Gossling, a former CFO of CTVglobemedia, on Jan. 1, 2013.
Blended average revenue per user (ARPU), which reflects the average monthly wireless bill for consumers, increased by 90 cents to $61.42.
Telus added 42,000 new TV subscribers and 26,000 high-speed Internet customers during the quarter. Those gains helped offset losses in its traditional land-line business.