Wind Mobile has abandoned the idea of only selling unlimited data plans for its smart phones, announcing Wednesday that it has introduced tiered data pricing where subscribers can choose different mobile data plans at different price points.
The move, which the upstart wireless carrier said was in response to customer feedback, is a clear sign that customers in Canada may not be willing to pay for an unlimited data plan. It is also yet another tactic to try and pull more customers onto Wind's young network, which launched in December and has had some difficulty picking up subscribers.
Previously, Wind offered a "social" data plan for its BlackBerry that had unlimited messaging, and a full unlimited plan for $35 per month. Three new plans lower the monthly fee to as low as $10 for 50 megabytes of data or $20 for 500 megabytes of data.
"We are certainly selling a lot of unlimited data," Wind Mobile's chairman, Anthony Lacavera, wrote in an e-mail to The Globe and Mail. "But we also have a lot of people looking for more flexibility and choice and so we are bringing it to market."
The new wireless company, which launched in Toronto and Calgary in December and has since expanded across the country's urban centres, markets itself as relying on feedback from online communities, so shifts in strategies are not exactly surprising. However, the company has become more aggressive in trying to pick up new subscribers since its launch was derailed by spotty network coverage and what some analysts called a weak distribution network.
Wind, which launched with only four handsets, recently introduced a cheaper handset and lowered prices. It also introduced, and then extended, a $150 credit for customers who switch over to Wind from one of Canada's large wireless incumbents, BCE Inc.'s Bell Mobility, Rogers Communications Inc., or Telus Corp.
Unlike other new entrants that purchased wireless licenses in 2008, Wind is clearly going after disaffected incumbent customers. Others, such as Public Mobile and Mobilicity, are going after "underserved" communities who may not be able, or want, to pay much for a cellphone; while cable companies, such as Shaw Communications Inc. or Quebecor Inc.'s Videotron Ltee., will be pitching their cellphones to their large cable-subscriber base, likely at a discount in a bundled package.
Unlimited mobile data plans are common elsewhere in the world, but not in Canada, where analysts say the competitive environment has allowed companies to maintain "tiered" data pricing-by-use. The wireless companies, such as Rogers, see this as providing a service to customers with different needs. Wind's move will likely be interpreted that, to an extent, the incumbents were correct in their rationale. Tiered pricing also allows wireless subscribers to ensure that a small community of active subscribers don't hog bandwidth on the network and slow down service for other subscribers, an issue which is becoming more important as smart phones become more popular.
"Many of our customers told us they weren't heavy users, or light users - and that what they really needed was a mid-range data add-on," Scott Campbell, Wind's chief marketing officer, said in a release.