A new study shows that Canadians paid less for wireless services this year but still spend more than people in other developed countries.
An annual price-comparison report prepared for the federal Department of Innovation, Science and Economic Development expected to be published on Friday reveals a decline in year-over-year wireless prices in Canada, with the average price for some plans that have more generous monthly data allowances falling by more than 16 per cent compared with 2017.
That reflects the trend of slowing growth in revenues Canada’s major carriers have reported, as pressure from regional players such as Shaw Communications Inc.'s Freedom Mobile and Quebecor Inc.'s Vidéotron Ltd. has forced national providers Rogers Communications Inc., BCE Inc. and Telus Corp. to offer better deals on plans with larger data buckets.
However, the study, which was conducted by Wall Communications Inc. − a copy of which was reviewed by The Globe and Mail − shows that Canadian wireless plans continue to cost considerably more than those in most of the countries included in the study’s international comparison.
The report, which is based on data collected in June and July, was completed in August. It ranks the cost of various levels of wireless services against similar plans in the six other countries in the Group of Seven − the United States, Britain, France, Italy, Germany and Japan − plus Australia, and also compares cities across Canada.
Canadian wireless prices are comparable with U.S. prices in most of the categories, which range from inexpensive plans with only talk and texting service to pricier plans with monthly data limits of up to 49 gigabytes of data.
The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) separately published a report on Thursday on the telecom industry, which showed that Canadian wireless subscribers use an average of 1.6 GB of data a month.
The average cost of plans with 2 GB of data in 2018 was $75.44, down 7.6 per cent from $81.61 in 2017, the Wall report said.
Yet, consumer advocates say Canadians use less data than wireless subscribers in other countries because the cost is comparatively higher.
The Wall report showed the average price of 2 GB plans in 2018 (in prices adjusted to Canadian dollars) was $61.26 in the United States, $24.70 in Australia, $26.56 in Britain, $30.91 in France, $21.11 in Italy, $45.80 in Germany and $81.52 in Japan.
Canada’s biggest carriers have complained about the methodology used in previous price-comparison reports, saying the survey does not compare identical plans. The carriers also point out the report does not factor in the vast geography of Canada, saying that the fact the country is large and sparsely populated makes it more expensive to serve.
Earlier this week, the CRTC said Rogers, Telus and BCE agreed to offer a range of low-cost, data-only wireless plans to address concerns about affordability. The plans, which will be offered by the carriers' discount brands (Fido and Chatr for Rogers, Koodo and Public Mobile for Telus, Virgin Mobile and Lucky Mobile for BCE), will cost up to $30 a month and include up to 1 GB of data.
Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains called the plans a “step in the right direction,” while consumer group OpenMedia was harshly critical of the offers, saying they do not meet the needs of low-income Canadians.
The CRTC said it will conduct a broader review of the competitiveness of the Canadian wireless market next year, and said that will determine whether “further action is required to improve the choice and affordability of mobile wireless services for Canadians.”