A new report is giving Canadians a glimpse at how the prices they pay for cellphone plans have changed in recent years as well as how those prices compare with what Americans and Europeans pay.
Published Thursday, the report from Ottawa consulting firm Wall Communications Inc. is commissioned annually by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) and Industry Canada and covers both domestic prices as well as international comparisons for wireless, high-speed Internet and landline telephone services – plus the price of bundled packages.
The federal government often cites figures from the Wall report as proof its policies on the wireless industry have led to lower prices since 2008, which was the first year the study was conducted as well as when Ottawa held an auction for cellular airwaves that reserved a certain amount for new players.
Yet, it is difficult to extract one sweeping trend from the study, in part because the 89-page report breaks the services down into “basket levels” based on the type of use. In the case of wireless prices, there are five levels of use, and some show a downward trend in pricing over the past five years while others reveal an upward climb.
The charts included with this piece illustrate prices paid for three levels of wireless service: Average usage (450 voice minutes and 300 texts per month), above-average usage (1,200 voice minutes, 300 texts and 1 GB of data per month) and very high-volume usage (unlimited nationwide talk and text and 2 GB data usage per month).
Mobile wireless prices in 2015 are “generally higher than last year,” Gerry Wall, president of Wall Communications, said in a news release. But he added that prices for talk and text plans are 20 per cent lower than in 2008 while higher-volume plans with talk, text and data have come down 24 per cent since then. Meanwhile, low-volume plans with only voice service have gone up 14 per cent.
“Prices for most of the service packages we examined – which include: talk only; talk and text; and talk, text and data plans – increased this year relative to last by between 4 per cent and 8 per cent, whereas the price of higher-volume unlimited nationwide talk and text plans including 2 GB of monthly data usage declined by 11 per cent,” Mr. Wall said.
The report found that prices charged by new entrant carriers – Wind Mobile Corp. and Mobilicity in Ontario, B.C. and Alberta, Videotron Ltd. in Quebec and Eastlink Wireless in the Atlantic provinces – are 25 per cent to 50 per cent lower than those charged by the incumbents, Rogers Communications Inc., BCE Inc. and Telus Corp. (BCE owns 15 per cent of The Globe and Mail.)
The Big Three’s discount brands – Fido, Virgin Mobile and Koodo – also offer prices roughly 10 per cent to 25 per cent cheaper than the incumbents’ comparable plans at their main brands.
Prices in Manitoba and Saskatchewan, where established regional players offer a fourth alternative, were the lowest in Canada.
Finally, compared with prices paid in the U.S., Europe, Australia and Japan, the report found “Canada’s mobile wireless prices once again rank on the high side of the international group of countries included in the study.”