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sean silcoff

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The federal government has made it clear that the glory days are over for Canada's wireless giants. Through a tough wireless code that imposes an end of three-year contracts and other obligations on the incumbents, as well as policy moves that could pave the way for U.S. giant Verizon Communications Inc. to enter the Canadian market, the feds have changed the landscape that Telus Corp., BCE Inc. and Rogers Communications Inc. operate in. They don't like it one bit – Verizon could be handed an unfair advantage by way of Ottawa's twisty-turny policy moves – but they need to figure how to compete in the new environment. A new offering from Telus could be a harbinger of what's to come.

This week, Telus unveiled a new "clear and simple" rate plans for two-year contracts – the new limit for contract lengths under the wireless code. It's not surprising that Telus is first out of the gate with a wireless code-friendly offering: the company has long led the way among the Big Three in positioning itself as the most consumer-oriented among them with such moves as eliminating system access fees and excessive cancellation charges, reducing rates and introducing warning notifications for international roaming, and making it easier and cheaper for customers to unlock their phones. That has paid off with "best in class customer satisfaction, as well as industry leading ARPU [average revenue per user], margins and lifetime revenue per subscriber," Canaccord Genuity analyst Dvai Ghose said in a note this week.

The new Telus plans offer consumers more choice, simplicity, transparency and – the company claims – value. The rates are clearly established and depend on whether customers use high-end smartphones, lower-end smartphones, tablets or unlocked devices they provide. Telus will allow households or companies to buy one package of data and share it among multiple devices and users. It's a plan that "works for consumers and also for Telus," said Brent Johnston, Telus vice president of mobility solutions.

Though he says the changes have been in the works for quite some time, it's evident Telus is positioning itself to better fend off Verizon and live up to the new code. It allows Telus to argue it didn't wait until the last minute to comply with the changes – which don't start to come into effect until December – continuing its claim of being the most most pro-consumer of the Big Three.

Most telling is what Telus' new plan doesn't do: cut prices across the board. While some customers will pay more per month, others will pay less, although it's hard to make an apples-to-apples comparison as the cost of handsets that were amortized over three-year contracts will now be expensed to customers over two. Telus is giving up some domestic voice overages and long distance revenues but those "could also easily be offset by higher margins," as Telus reduces handset subsidies to consumers and shaves costs related to customers calling customer service or quitting altogether, said Mr. Ghose. That would help its bottom line.

You can probably expect more of this from the incumbents: moves that give customers greater choice, flexibility and transparency, but don't necessarily save them money or hurt the companies' bottom line. For Telus and the other carriers, the real pain will only come if or when Verizon sets up shop here.

Disclosure: I own a small number of Verizon shares.

Sean Silcoff is a contributor to ROB Insight, the business commentary service available to Globe Unlimited subscribers. Click here for more of his Insights , and follow Sean on Twitter at @seansilcoff .