MobileBlog

News and views on the Canadian telecom industry, and tips and tricks for saving on your cell phone bill.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Unlimited Plans Coming Faster than We Thought

Telus recently introduced the Unlimited Winnipeg Plan:



This is not unlike Fido's Unlimited Toronto plan back before they were bought out by Rogers, however it is notable now because it is very similar to Chat R's Ontario Plan (owned by Rogers) and of course similar to any of the Small Three unlimited provincial plans.

On the surface this is a small market and not a national plan, however it could be a test market that Telus is trying to introduce and gradually bring these plans into the fray.

For whatever reason it is notable in my books for making waves in the telecom plan world this week in Canada. If I were in Winnipeg signing up for a new device this is the plan I would go for, no questions asked.

Unlimited Plans Coming Faster than We Thought

Telus recently introduced the Unlimited Winnipeg Plan:



This is not unlike Fido's Unlimited Toronto plan back before they were bought out by Rogers, however it is notable now because it is very similar to Chat R's Ontario Plan (owned by Rogers) and of course similar to any of the Small Three unlimited provincial plans.

On the surface this is a small market and not a national plan, however it could be a test market that Telus is trying to introduce and gradually bring these plans into the fray.

For whatever reason it is notable in my books for making waves in the telecom plan world this week in Canada. If I were in Winnipeg signing up for a new device this is the plan I would go for, no questions asked.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The "Small 3's" BIG Media Boost

http://www.ctv.ca/CTVNews/SciTech/20101112/cellular-phone-market-talk-text-101112/

Seriously? What gives? It seems like every time I peruse the media for news on Canadian telecom I find a new article portraying the "Small 3" (Mobilicity, Public, and Wind) in a sickeningly positive light. I mean, I love that there's new competition that's changing the face of Canadian telecom, and I love that they are attempting to compete with low prices and service without contracts. Canadians have been overpaying for cellular service and stuck in aggravating contracts for far too long, so the entrance of these low-cost carriers is more than welcome. But what really tickles my anger pickle is the way in which the media seems to always gloss over all the negatives surrounding these providers. Whatever happened to balanced reporting? These new providers obviously make great headline fodder, and people want to hear about all the ways in which they are superior to the "Big 3". Moreover, all those new Mobilicity, Wind, and Public Mobile customers out there who are likely experiencing strong states of post-purchase cognitive dissonance (I'll explain why shortly) must be clamoring for any positive news about their recently-acquired provider they can find. The potential usurpation of the incumbent telecom providers who we've all come to hate undoubtedly provides great satisfaction to media-consumers everywhere, so its no surprise that news outlets run with this story on a regular basis. In short, news about how "great" (yup, that's "great" in quotation marks) Public, Mobilicity, and Wind are interests the public, sells well, and is therefore pushed by media outlets all across Canada.

But where is all the mention of how AWFUL the service is? If you are writing an article discussing how inexpensive Mobilicity is, I feel as though it's necessary to perhaps shed just a little bit of light on HOW they are able to provide such inexpensive service - which, to be honest is not really any cheaper than a Rogers, Bell, Telus, or Fido plan, as long as you structure it and negotiate it in the correct way. While many factors contribute to Mobilicity's apparent low-cost pricing structure, the predominant reason is second-tier service. Whenever I talk to Mobilicity, Public, or Wind customers, I hear complaints of dropped calls, painfully slow data, disappearing text messages, and poor voice quality. While Mobilicity will soon be expanding their geographic reach (see earlier Grif's Vantage Point post), these customers also express strong frustration at an inability to get service outside of their local calling area.

To put it in perspective, I kind of see these "Small 3" as the "Old Milwaukee Ice" of Canadian Telecom companies. Like the aforementioned beer, these companies are cheap, dirty, and will leave a bad taste in your mouth. Sure, they'll get you to your destination pretty quickly and easily (i.e. making a phone call or getting drunk, depending on what side of this convoluted analogy you're looking at), but they'll leave you with one heck of a hangover (i.e. pissed off at a dropped call or with an actual alcohol-induced hangover, again depending on what side of this convoluted analogy you're looking at). Their customers include high-school/university students who are mostly motivated by getting to said destination as cheaply as possible, and aging hipsters who will do whatever it takes to avoid anything popular or "mainstream" in some vain and misguided attempt to be subversive and original (when in reality, both getting drunk and using a cell-phone are about as mainstream as you can get, regardless of the brand you choose).

But I digress. It's not that I really don't like the "Small 3". I wholeheartedly support what they are doing to change the face of Canadian Telecom, and their heart is in the right place. I just can't support any company who doesn't provide the service quality that I need, but who pushed their business to me with the promise of "the lowest prices available" (not true), while making every attempt to dodge any mention of quality. It just seems like they are trying to pull the wool over Canada's eyes, and I dislike how our media is playing along. If CTV wants to talk about how cheap the "Small 3's" talk-and-text packages are, they should at least mention the quality you'll be relinquishing if you enlist their services.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Chat-R Wireless, One Small Step for Rogers, One Giant Leap Backwards for Telecom

Chat-R Wireless, which launched in the Summer of 2010 is a discount carrier owned and operated by Rogers. They piggy back off of their parent company's network and share a lot of the same infrastructure. Not surprisingly your Chatr bill looks a lot like a Rogers bill in actual layout and printing format.

Chat-R wireless is in essence just Rogers wireless in a bad costume. Its the rich kid no one likes trying to slum it a little by putting away the designer clothes for a day thinking no one will notice. Make no mistake though, no one wants to be friends with the rich kid trying to slum it out.

What I mean by this of course is that there is something that doesn't sit well with us Telecom observers when a major player which has been notorious for overcharging makes a move like this. (see Grif's Vantage point for more on Rogers' overcharging)

It stems from the spectrum bidding back in 2007 when Wind, Public and Mobilicity all entered the game. We'll call them the Small 3. The Small 3 saw the potential for undercutting the big guys by simple pricing and unlimited plans. Their drawback? Small 'zones' because of few cell towers.

What this means is that although you have an "unlimited plan" while in range of the tower of your provider (be it Wind, Mobilicity or Public), once you leave that range or 'home zone' you begin paying an overage for piggy backing off of another network. The Small 3 all have arrangements from the Big 3 (Rogers, Telus and Bell) to use their networks when the Small 3's customers are out of range.

Now, this is all well and good for a business model of a start up. Great pricing, but with a functionality cost.

Now, Rogers puts out Chat-R to compete directly with these start ups. Remember that Rogers' inconsistent and confusing pricing is the reason for these companies starting up.

Recap:

Rogers: National network, confusing pricing

Small 3: Small Home Zone Network, simple pricing, need to piggy back off of Big 3 when out of home zone

Chat-R: Owned by Rogers, Simple Pricing, Uses Rogers' Towers. Has predefined home zones...


Wait, what was that last part?

That's right, Chat-R despite being owned by Rogers' has predefined home zones. How these towers differ to warrant the increase in charge.


The ChatR Southern Ontario Coverage


Anything in Orange is the ChatR network where your unlimited plan will work. Anything in Purple is the "No Worries" Network.

Make no mistake, you should worry. We should all be worried when Coca-Cola makes an effort to take out Susie selling lemonade.

Rogers has once again outdone themselves in confusing pricing. Determining home zones based on nothing more than just what the other Small 3 were doing is ludicrous. The impetus for this isn't to be a good corporation, nor is it to save their customers money. Its jumping ship rather than trying to fix what's so broken.

When Rogers puts out Chat'R plans through Rogers without No Worries networks, then we as Canadians have won.


For what its worth, MobileVantage can get you a ChatR plan through Rogers with no home zones...

Chat-R Wireless, One Small Step for Rogers, One Giant Leap Backwards for Telecom

Chat-R Wireless, which launched in the Summer of 2010 is a discount carrier owned and operated by Rogers. They piggy back off of their parent company's network and share a lot of the same infrastructure. Not surprisingly your Chatr bill looks a lot like a Rogers bill in actual layout and printing format.

Chat-R wireless is in essence just Rogers wireless in a bad costume. Its the rich kid no one likes trying to slum it a little by putting away the designer clothes for a day thinking no one will notice. Make no mistake though, no one wants to be friends with the rich kid trying to slum it out.

What I mean by this of course is that there is something that doesn't sit well with us Telecom observers when a major player which has been notorious for overcharging makes a move like this. (see Grif's Vantage point for more on Rogers' overcharging)

It stems from the spectrum bidding back in 2007 when Wind, Public and Mobilicity all entered the game. We'll call them the Small 3. The Small 3 saw the potential for undercutting the big guys by simple pricing and unlimited plans. Their drawback? Small 'zones' because of few cell towers.

What this means is that although you have an "unlimited plan" while in range of the tower of your provider (be it Wind, Mobilicity or Public), once you leave that range or 'home zone' you begin paying an overage for piggy backing off of another network. The Small 3 all have arrangements from the Big 3 (Rogers, Telus and Bell) to use their networks when the Small 3's customers are out of range.

Now, this is all well and good for a business model of a start up. Great pricing, but with a functionality cost.

Now, Rogers puts out Chat-R to compete directly with these start ups. Remember that Rogers' inconsistent and confusing pricing is the reason for these companies starting up.

Recap:

Rogers: National network, confusing pricing

Small 3: Small Home Zone Network, simple pricing, need to piggy back off of Big 3 when out of home zone

Chat-R: Owned by Rogers, Simple Pricing, Uses Rogers' Towers. Has predefined home zones...


Wait, what was that last part?

That's right, Chat-R despite being owned by Rogers' has predefined home zones. How these towers differ to warrant the increase in charge.


The ChatR Southern Ontario Coverage


Anything in Orange is the ChatR network where your unlimited plan will work. Anything in Purple is the "No Worries" Network.

Make no mistake, you should worry. We should all be worried when Coca-Cola makes an effort to take out Susie selling lemonade.

Rogers has once again outdone themselves in confusing pricing. Determining home zones based on nothing more than just what the other Small 3 were doing is ludicrous. The impetus for this isn't to be a good corporation, nor is it to save their customers money. Its jumping ship rather than trying to fix what's so broken.

When Rogers puts out Chat'R plans through Rogers without No Worries networks, then we as Canadians have won.


For what its worth, MobileVantage can get you a ChatR plan through Rogers with no home zones...

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Good Read of the Week: Marc Saltzman's Toronto Star Article

Check out the article here: http://www.thestar.com/article/888085--how-to-choose-the-best-cellphone-plan

I just got off the phone with my mom after having a nice little conversation about the specifics of taking my cats to the vet and extracting liquid from feline cysts. Riveting stuff! At one point in the conversation she mentioned reading an interesting article in the Star about saving money on your cell-phone bill. As this topic is right up MobileVantage's alley, I thought I'd give it a look. The article gives 5 seemingly simple tips on how Canadians can find the best cell-phone plan for them, and is generally full of good advice. I especially liked his opening line, "Canadians pay the highest cellphone rates in the world". Not only is it truthful, but it would also make a hell of a hook for a MobileVantage pitch: "Hey you, Mr. Respectable Businessman sir. Did you know that Canadians pay the highest cellphone rates in the world? Yes, that's right. YOU ARE NOT ALONE! WE CAN HELP". Oh man, that would totally kill in any sales situation. Thanks a bundle Marc! As for the meat of the article itself, I'd like to break it down into 5 chunks, and comment on each of his suggestions.

1. Personalize the plan

Good call on this one Mr. Saltzman. The best thing you can do for yourself when selecting a plan is to look at your past usage, determine whether your usage patterns may change in the future, and base your plan around that. While that $35 unlimited data plan might seem like a good idea, it's useless if all you want to do on your BlackBerry is check e-mail. Really, the key to getting a cell-phone plan that fits your needs and your wallet is to first understand how you'll be using it. Usage patterns really are the key, and one thing we here at MobileVantage always look at first. In fact, MobileVantage prides itself on lowering our clients' phone bills WITHOUT affecting their usage.

2. Negotiate
“Also, just because you’re locked into a two- or three-year contract doesn’t mean that the terms of that contract can’t be changed mid-stream." Great point here, as negotiating with your provider IN-CONTRACT can actually improve your savings margins substantially. That being said, Saltzman oversimplifies the negotiation process, and says that you can get better rates by just asking for them. I can tell you from experience that doing something this simple will NEVER get you the savings you desire. If you ask the customer service rep for better rates, I guarantee that they will respond by telling you that your current rates are the best they offer. Well if that doesn't get your "BS"-detector going, I don't know what will. The problem is that it's pretty difficult to come right out and say "you're lying" to the rep at the other end of the line, and expect to move forward positively in creating a mutually-beneficial plan agreement. I'm actually really surprised Saltzman doesn't suggest using Mobilicity, Wind Mobile and Public Mobile as bargaining chips, which is something we at MobileVantage have always done to great effect. As one article commenter named "Mythstified" mentioned, this article seems to fit the paradigm that existed in the Canadian Telecom industry three years ago. Why not mention the industry's youngbloods and how their presence can be utilized to leverage yourself into a better plan? That would have really helped transition this article from good to great.

3. Share with Family
This is a tricky one to address, but overall I must say that Saltzman gives some bad advice here. What MobileVantage has found is that Family plans often end up costing people more than they save. My5 is great for some people, and Share20 can be okay as well. The problem really is that being locked into a family plan severely limits your negotiating power (making Saltzman's point #2 rather inconsequential), and most times it's far more cost-effective to go without the features that a family plan offers. Furthermore, family plans often result in pooled minutes, which means that if one member goes over their quota, other members will be left having to reduce their usage, or else face high overuse charges. As an example, say your daughter gets a new super-dreamy boyfriend who she talks to incessantly on the phone. All of a sudden your family doesn't have the minutes they need, and you incur ridiculous usage charges. Sure, your daughter is partially responsible for this, but it's really your crappy Family plan that's to blame!

4. Watch your Usage
Awesome tip here Marc! A great idea to avoid costly overuse charges, and to get a better idea of how you use your phone is to simply monitor your usage. You can check this on your provider's website, request the information over the phone, or even ask for these reports via e-mail. Moreover, if you use a smartphone there's a handful of apps out there that can monitor your usage, give you readouts in easy to understand graphs and charts, and even allow you to set alarms to notify you when you are reaching usage limits. "MiniMoni"and "TeliCost" are both great monitoring applications that you can find more info about online.

5. Unlimited Plans
This is probably my favourite tip of all, because a) if you use your phone a lot, unlimited plans can be a great way to reduce your monthly cellular costs b) Saltzman mentions that these plans aren't for everybody, and can be overly costly if you don't need them (i.e. aren't a heavy user), and c) there's a quote from Sara Moore, Mobilicity's VP Marketing. She's pretty cute as far as VPs of Marketing go (sorry Paul Rowe, VP Marketing of Bell...)

So if you haven't read the article yet, I encourage you to do so. Thanks for the article Marc, and thanks for pointing it out to me Mom. Cya later!


-Griffin

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Another Smart Move by Mobilicity

I've noticed that in this blog's infancy, entries have had a decidedly "watch out Rogers/Bell/Telus, the little guys are coming" feel. Well I'm here to continue that trend, and once again applaud an offensive move by one of the "Small Three" to attempt take the industry incumbents down a notch. This time I must give "Big Ups" to Mobilicty, as it was recently announced that they are launching global roaming services (http://www.teleclick.ca/2010/11/mobilicity-launches-global-roaming-service/). Before I move on I'd like to first preface my remarks by saying that I don't feel very positive about Mobilicity overall. I can understand their lacking hardware selection, desire to not heavily subsidize high-end smartphone purchases for their customers, and their lack of strong network coverage. I understand these strategies, because they are a relatively small firm that must fight tooth-and-nail to stay profitable in a shockingly competitive industry. But just because I understand these strategies DOES NOT mean I would support them as a customer. I would much rather go with a provider who will give me a wider choice of better phones, and the poor network coverage of Mobilicity is really a deal-breaker in my opinion. And to top it all off this must be the most blatantly banal Canadian telecom company out there. They're like the Canadian Telecom world's "The American" (that movie with George Clooney that's all like, "hey look at me I'm super artsy and contemplative and introspective and junk. And too freaking bad to any paying audience member who wants to see something happen other than an old dude exercise and sip coffee. That's just not how I get down". Although that movie did have some sweet sex scenes. Mobilicity is about as sexy as Rosie O'Donnell *shudder*)! Soooooooo boring. Do something exciting for once, rather than making every safe play in the book and doing your best to step in Wind's footsteps. Sure, they're offering free calls to India for Diwali (November 4th to 7th - Don't forget to buy some new utensils on Dhanwantari Triodasi!) which is pretty cool, but their name is still the combination of "mobile" and "city" which is pretty unforgivably lame. That's really, really, really dumb and I cringe at the juvenile naming effort...Although you've got to give them credit for truth in branding, as the only place you can be "mobile" if you're with Mobilicity is in the heart of the city. Do you live in the suburbs and use mobilicity? Better get yourself a landline too you poor reception-less schmuck.

But annnyyyywwwwaaaayyyy, from that slightly over-the-top rant you can tell I'm not the hugest fan of Mobilicity. Which is why I was so surprised when I read the aforementioned news story and couldn't help but be impressed with the move. It will no doubt cause a splash in the industry, please their customers greatly, and once again cause Rogers, Bell, Telus, and Fido to ready themselves for kissing some customers goodbye. Although in Bell's case their goodbyes would be bereft of kisses and likely consist of a slap in the face, an unscrupulous overcharge, and a cry of "don't let the door hit you in the ass on the way out!" I'm just saying....

What makes this Mobilicity move so appealing is how it fills a hole in their service while emphasizing one of their key customer benefits. It's as if Mobilicity's executives all came together in a meeting and asked, "alright, so we compete by trying to be the cheapest, but most people couldn't care less about us because our coverage is so limited, so what can we do?" In response to this quandary they ended up increasing their network coverage in a remarkably cost-friendly way. With this new global roaming service, Mobilicity customers can now make calls from over 60 countries, which wasn't previously possible. That sounds pretty appealing to me, especially if I travel often on business and must use my phone. It sounds even better when the cost of roaming in the US is priced competitively at only .25 cents per minute. Not bad at all. Outside of the US and Canada, Mobilicity will charge $3.25/minute for voice roaming and $15 per Megabyte of data. That's not great, but relative to other providers it's not bad either. However, what really makes this new service stand out in my view is that the roaming services will be offered EXCLUSIVELY on a prepaid basis. That means no longer will you cross the border or enter a strangely located "roaming zone" and make/take a call or, god forbid, forget to turn off your data connection and be charged exorbitant fees without realizing what you've done. When I was in University I used to take the train home from Montreal to Toronto, which passed through an inexplicable US Roaming Zone around the Quebec-Ontario border. And as luck would have it my mother would more often than not call around that time to see what time I'd be home, what I wanted her to pick up at the grocery store, and how my day was going. Then I'd get a ridiculous phone bill from Rogers saying that I made a 15 minute call while in the States. That really, really sucked. So I guess the downside for Mobilicity customers is that you can't use your phone when roaming internationally if you don't buy one of these packages, but the HUGE upside is that astronomical "sneaky bills" will be a thing of the past.

Plus, with this whole "MyWallet" account feature, Mobilicity customers who expect to be traveling in the near future can just put some roaming money aside, and not worry about being massively overcharged when they forget to buy a specific roaming package just prior to departing. I like to think of it as a protective suit of armour against unfair roaming charges...well actually that's a pretty crappy analogy, but you get the point. Either way you look at it, this is a step in the right direction for Mobilicity. I'm sure as heck not about to jump on their service bandwagon, but I'll certainly give them points for a savvy strategic move. They helped relieve the detriments of one of their core weaknesses (lack of network coverage and international calling), while playing into one of their biggest strengths (cost leadership). Good stuff Mobilicity. Gooood Stuff.

Now I must get back to kicking Coach Gorsline's butt in Call of Duty: Black Ops, so I will bid you all adieu. Cya later!

-Griffin



Monday, November 8, 2010

New MobileVantage Offices!

Hey everyone, just wanted to let you know that MobileVantage just moved into a slick new office space in Toronto's Annex area! Located at 225 Brunswick Avenue, we now have a new home in the heart of downtown Toronto. It's a cool little residential office building in one of my favourite Toronto neighbourhoods. Feel free to stop by and say hi, or even check into "Mobilevantage HQ" with FourSquare if you're in the area. Just checking in on FourSquare can get you a 10% discount on any of our services. How great is that?!?!

Here we are on Google Streetview!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Wireless Complaints on the rise!

Hey, just a quick post here. Check out this article: http://www.moneyville.ca/article/882721--consumer-wireless-complaints-on-the-rise


Some really interesting points in this article, with the key theme being a rise in the number of customers who complain to their wireless providers (and with good reason!). Here are the points that caught my eye:

-In the current report, Bell Canada had 1,428 complaints, Telus had 657 and Rogers had 540. Wind Mobile, operating since late 2009, had one complaint. - I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Bell has terrible customer service, deceptive billing, and some questionable conduct for such a large company. That inflated number of complaints is pretty good evidence of my assertion. That's a key reason as to why I think Rogers will keep their top spot in Canadian Telecom, and will overcome their struggles as of late.

-Canada’s Commissioner for Complaints for Telecommunications Services (CCTS) reported Thursday that wireless carriers were the target of more than half the roughly 3,700 complaints it received between August 2009 and July 2010. - If you read between the lines here, you'll realize that the complaint figures mentioned above were those directed to the CCTS. Imagine the number of complaints that went right to Bell, Rogers, and Telus WITHOUT going to the CCTS. And how severe must the complaints be for them to be taken to the CCTS? I shudder to think...

-Canadians are registering more complaints about cellphone contracts and billing information because of a flood of overly complex or confusing options and company errors. - This is exactly where MobileVantage fits in! I hate to toot our own horn here, but helping our customers make sense of the complexity they see in their bills and plan options, along with removing and refunding company errors is EXACTLY what MobileVantage can help with. Plus, we do this while we help out clients lower their cell bills.

After reading this article I can only imagine that our services must be very, very in demand at the moment. I mean, look at all those complaints! Look at what we can do to ameliorate them! Now if only we can find a way to adequately get the word out...Anyone have any ideas? If you have any suggestions or ideas on how to generate some hype and interest in MobileVantage, feel free to tweet @griffinthomson, respond to this post, email me at grif@mobilevantage.ca, or even give us a call at 416-561-1143. We have a lot of marketing initiatives at the moment, but I'm always interested in hearing about new marketing avenues worth exploring. Moreover, we'll have an advertisement in the December edition of the Toronto Business Times (www.torontobusinesstimes.com), so pick up a copy and check us out!

Thanks for reading and as always it's been a pleasure. Take care and happy saving!

-Griffin Thomson

Bell and Telus Slide - LTE to the Rescue???

If you read my blog post from yesterday, you'll know I discussed Rogers' struggles as of late, and predicted that Bell and Telus would follow suit. So imagine my surprise (or lack thereof) when I saw an article about Bell's struggles in the Toronto Star this morning. I nearly choked on a spoonful of Raisin Bran when I saw the headline. Turns out, Bell has been failing to keep their profits up too, and has seen significant hits from their subsidization of smartphones (see previous November 4th post for more info on this issue). While surfing the Toronto Star website this morning to find out more, I stumbled upon this little gem: http://www.thestar.com/business/article/886394--telus-profits-sink-amid-debt-refinancing-revenues-rise.

Turns out Telus has joined the underachievement club, and has seen net income fall by 12% from a year ago. If you listen carefully enough, I'm pretty sure you can hear the collective fist-pumping excitement of those with a stake in Mobilicty, Wind, and Public Mobile.

So what are Canadian Telecom's "Big Three" to do about all this? Well for starters, the media has been buzzing with talks of a "faster, stronger wireless coming to Canada" (http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/article/882200--faster-stronger-wireless-coming-to-canada). A new technology known as Long-Term Evolution (LTE) is said to be able to vastly improve the speeds and capabilities of wireless networks, and can approximately double connection speeds. Apparently it's being "moved towards" (which I suppose means testing, discussing, and infrastructure purchasing is occuring) by carriers around the world, including Bell, Rogers, and Telus. What's really interesting about this technology is that a) it will make wireless browsing/downloading/streaming as smooth as the internet you'd receive when at home (supposedly), and b) while the technology is viable at the moment, cellular devices are currently lagging behind! So while we may see a vast improvement in the quality and speed of internet stick connections, we may not be able to purchase BlackBerrys and iPhones with LTE capability anytime soon. But not to worry, as Samsung has an LTE capable phone in the works, Nokia is pushing LTE phones, and LTE iPhones and BlackBerry might not be too far behind. In the global telecom industry, history has shown that Canada lags slightly behind the States with regards to technology and hardware. Since US provider Verizon is launching six LTE phones at January's Las Vegas Consumer Electronics Show, which likely means Canadian providers won't be far behind.

This is certainly a bright-spot in an otherwise rough week for the "Big Three" in Canadian Telecom. It remains to be seen whether this technology can really make the splash that it's expected to, and whether it can help Rogers, Bell, and Telus once again get a leg-up on their smaller, more agile competition. Regardless, Canadians (myself included) have a voracious appetite for cellular data, so it' would seem that this is a strategic move in the right direction. And who knows, perhaps it will help smartphones become a more lucrative profit-generating product category for the "Big Three". Only time will tell....

Cya later!

-Griffin Thomson

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Power to the People

The winds of change are sweeping through the Canadian Telecom industry, and its monolithic incumbents are starting to feel the chill. We at MobileVantage have been following this story for awhile now, so it came as no surprise when I saw it prominently featured upon opening the Globe and Mail app on my Blackberry. Under the "Popular" section of said app was an article by their "Telecom Reporter" Iain Marlow:
http://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-investor/rogers-takes-hit-as-phone-wars-heat-up/article1772824/

Anyone see it?

Titled "Rogers takes hit as phone wars heat up", it delves into the oft-discussed issue of how the entrance of new providers like Wind, Mobilicity, and Public Mobile are changing the competitive scope of Canadian telecom. Specifically, it focuses on how Rogers has failed to adequately respond to this "new competitive reality". Here are some key figures for you to think about:

-In the third quarter, Rogers saw a 24% drop in profit. 24%!!! That's quite a precipitous decline, representing $115 million Canadian (the drop was from $485 to $370 million).

-In this quarter, Rogers added 529,000 smartphone users.

-The Rogers stock has dropped 7.7%...Ouch. While not a crippling hit by any means, it's a rather ominous and worrying statistic, considering Rogers' position as the current Canadian telecom heavyweight champ.

Sure, as the strongest performer in the industry Rogers does have "the furthest to fall", but we can all be certain that Telus and Bell will follow suit. And given Bell's absolutely horrendous customer service and eyebrow-raisingly deceptive conduct, I predict that Bell will fall even further in the future than Rogers. We all have our telecom provider horror stories, and at MobileVantage we hear our fair share of them. And I can tell you with all honesty that the stories coming from Bell customers are far more cringe-inducing. But I digress. After reading the article all I could really think about was how MobileVantage fits into the whole picture. Firstly, through negotiations on our clients' behalf we can often help them receive upgrades that they might not necessarily be eligible for yet on paper. These upgrades usually consist of brand-new smartphones, which certainly contributes to that rather large "new smartphone user" number above. However, while the article states that these upgrades are used to get customers to "choos(e) a wireless phone that comes with higher monthly bills", we haven't found this to be the case. In every single smartphone upgrade we've negotiated, our clients' monthly bills have actually gone down! I don't mean to call erroneous on Marlow's claims. I'm simply stating that MobileVantage can help you become the exception to the rule by getting a new smartphone AND reducing your bill.

Another aspect of Rogers' performance that MobileVantage touches upon is the declining average revenue per user (i.e. the monthly bill). Since we have helped hundreds of users lower their monthly phone bills, I'd like to think that MobileVantage has had a part to play (albeit a small one) in this revenue per user change. The plans we negotiate for our customers are on average 45% less than their previous plans (without affecting usage!), which undoubtedly has an effect. Moreover, this number is made all the more significant when you consider that we specialize in renegotiating plans for our clients when they are IN CONTRACT. All of a sudden those aforementioned troublesome performance measures are starting to make a bit more sense...

However, one figure we can't take ANY responsibility for is the "churn rate". The number of customers leaving Rogers is a factor of their displeasure with the provider, and their desire for less expensive plans with carriers like Wind or Mobilicity. This gives us a lot more bargaining clout with providers, as "switching to Wind" is now a viable threat that can be played in trying to negotiate less expensive plans for our clients. That being said, we wouldn't actually suggest a client switches to Wind, in large part because of the cancellation fee and network quality hit they would incur. I personally have a Blackberry 9700 with Rogers, and I'm damn happy with it. I get great reception and network coverage, have a dirt-cheap plan that includes data, and love the new Blackberry that I negotiated with Rogers for. But I realize that I am perhaps an anomaly, as there are a lot of people out there who aren't happy with Rogers, and thus contribute to Rogers' "churn rate" and relatively poor performance. Furthermore, I can say with confidence that there are a lot of people unhappy with Rogers, Telus, Fido, and so on too. Well to those people who are unhappy with their cellphone plan and hardware, I encourage you to give MobileVantage a shout. Or at the very least, check out the website to learn a bit more about how we can save you money and leave you feeling better about that phone in your pocket. The telecom industry is changing, and most of Canadians (save for those who work for or invest in Rogers) say it's for the better. Isn't it about time your cell bill changed for the better too?

-Bye for now, and happy saving MobileVantagers!