The head of Rogers Communications Inc. says the telecom industry needs to stop trying to scare people into buying more data and start making it easier for them to know why it's worth the price.
"We need to change the philosophy of how we sell data so it's as easy as buying petrol," Guy Laurence, who has been president and chief executive of Toronto-based Rogers since December, told a CIBC conference in Montreal.
Drawing an analogy between buying gasoline for a car and data for a smartphone, Laurence said in his view the auto industry does a much better job.
"Instead of having a little yellow light on the dashboard, we send out messages going 'Oh, my God! You're nearly at your limit!" Laurence said Wednesday.
"If you want to go out to the lake or the mountain or something. . . what you spend on petrol isn't the big issue at the end of the day. That's where we need to get to."
Laurence, who headed British carrier Vodafone UK before joining Rogers, has been vocal about shaking up the company – which has one of Canada's three national wireless networks and other businesses and the country's biggest base of subscribers.
However, in a May briefing with reporters, Laurence flatly rejected the idea of selling "unlimited data" packages – an option sold at some smaller carriers but not by the Big Three: Rogers, Telus Corp. and BCE Inc.'s Bell.
Laurence's comments on Wednesday continued to expanded on his message that consumers will be willing to pay for the data they need if they see value in what they can get with it – often content, such as sports and entertainment.
Over the past year, Rogers has spent billions to increase its wireless data capabilities and committed to spend billions more for rights to content, such as National Hockey League games for 12 years starting with the 2014-15 season.
Laurence said that Rogers bought the "appropriate amount" of 700 megahertz wireless spectrum earlier this year when it bought 22 licences across the country for $3.29-billion – by far the largest single purchase in an auction that raised a record $5.27-billion from various bidders.
"We fundamentally believe that Canadians will consume huge amounts of content on their mobile phones. In order to facilitate that, you need big pipes in the sky, spectrum. . . . .And that's what we bought," Laurence said.
"It's a 20-year decision. If you get it wrong, there's no way back. So therefore it was critical that we got the right amount of spectrum now, just ahead of the demand curve which we expect to monetize when it comes."
As for $5.2-billion deal for NHL hockey rights, announced shortly before Laurence officially took the helm but after he was selected for the job, he said Rogers believes that a lot of Canadians will watch on connected tablets.
"And there you start to see the two parts of our belief coming together. One is that content is important and secondly that it will be consumed through mobile. Certainly, that's what we've seen in Europe."