March 17, 2014 12:03 pm
Updated: March 17, 2014 1:37 pm

Big carriers move to lift wireless prices on subscribers

And more expensive? Telus, Bell and Rogers have reportedly lifted wireless prices across voice and data plans by about $5.

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Remember when you could phone up your wireless carrier, haggle for a better deal and maybe actually get one?

Those days look to be fading fast, and in their place comes a heftier wireless bill for subscribers being moved onto new plans that will cost more.

Over the past month, all three national wireless operators – Telus, Bell and Rogers – are reported to have quietly lifted prices by about $5 on voice and data plans across their main brands as well as on their discount “flanker” brands in Koodo, Fido and Virgin.

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According to industry blog reports, Bell moved over the weekend to tweak its wireless plans to match those recently introduced by Rogers and Telus – the latter being the first to bring on higher pricing, according to Mobilesyrup.com.

A spokesperson for Telus said the company’s new SharePlus rates were a response to “changing customer usage trends.”

The new plans “better reflect the costs of providing wireless services and the multi-billion-dollar investments we make to ensure our customers have access to the world-class wireless coverage, reliability and speed they demand,” Donna Ramirez, a spokesperson for Telus, said in an email.

Some experts suggest the new higher pricing is a result of the shift to two-year contracts from three in recent months, a condition imposed by wireless regulators in last year’s wireless code. They cite the shorter window for the carrier to recover costs related to a smartphone subsidy for customers taking a new device.

But others, like Ronald Gruia, a telecom expert at Frost & Sullivan in Toronto, disagree. He suggested on Monday creeping prices are largely a function of diminishing competition from lower-cost rivals.

New entrants stumble

Over the last year, one new carrier, Mobilicity, has filed for bankruptcy protection while a second, Public Mobile, sold itself to Telus.

Meanwhile, Wind Mobile, the largest and strongest of a crop of new carriers who entered the fray a few years ago, has also signaled in recent months that its willingness to continue competing against the far bigger national carriers is fading.

The average revenue collected by subscriber at Wind is about $29.80/month, according to the company — or about half of the $59.40 average bill among Rogers, Bell and Telus customers.

“What the big three are saying, in essence from a high level, is that they’re seeing increasingly less competition,” Gruia said.

The new entrants have “been relegated to kind of a zombie status,” the analyst said. “This new price environment comes as a result.”

READ MORE: With new entrant signal fading, what happens to wireless prices?

How news of the price hikes will be received by Ottawa is unknown, but the moves cut directly against the intentions of Industry Minister James Moore to deliver “lower prices” for wireless customers.

Industry Canada has levelled roaming rates the big carriers can charge smaller operators like Wind when a customer is outside their home zone, a move that will save the smaller carriers some cash.

That announcement followed the implementation of wireless code for consumers that carriers were to adopt by Dec. 2.

© 2014 Shaw Media

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