Offering Cheap Wireless Plans in Canada Nearly Impossible, Say Startups

Canadian wireless startups say it’s next to impossible to offer their alternative services to customers in their home market, so they are moving their business south, to the US, claims a CBC News report.

Textnow pricing

The fact is, they would have little chance to succeed in Canada: the telecom regulator, the CRTC has officially slammed the door on affordable wireless options with a February ruling which allows the incumbents to block Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs) from setting up in the country.

In the US, on the other hand, such wireless startups are allowed to lease access from big carriers at wholesale rates. Take TextNow for example: the Waterloo, Ontario-based company offers a $19/month plan and was recently selected as one of only 50 companies to win Canada’s Top Small & Medium Employers for 2016 award.

TextNow, just like Ting (a Toronto-based company) offers a low-cost wireless plan only in the US. Both claim they have been shut out of their home market.

There is one MNVO that stands — but its days are numbered — and that’s Sugar Wireless, which leases access from Rogers (it actually uses the access Ice Wireless got through its wholesale wireless agreements with Rogers) but Canada’s biggest carrier says what Sugar Mobile does is illegal and wants it out. Their allegations are backed by another carrier, Bell.

Sugar Mobile’s CEO said if he loses access for the startup, he’ll consider mobilizing the operation in the US.

Now, add the Bell-MTS merger to the mix and you’ll get the future of the Canadian mobile landscape: Canadian wireless services will claim the top spot… for remaining among the most expensive in the world.

Technology enthusiast, rocker, biker and writer of iPhoneinCanada.ca. Follow me on Twitter or contact me via email: istvan@iphoneincanada.ca

  • Jeff Artiss

    This really needs to change. ridiculous what we are paying for cellular and data compared to those around us. The small start ups need a chance in Canada. Fingers crossed that Wind Mobile will be able to do something to offer competition to the big three.

  • 1His_Nibs1

    I guess you haven’t heard WIND has been bought out by Shaw? Sorry to burst your bubble but it’s just a matter of time before they rebrand it Shaw and up their rates. They will probably grandfather older plans but they’ll probably put a time limit on that.

  • JB

    Yeah, I have ZERO confidence in this bringing rates lower. It will just mean one more member of the oligopoly competing with sales and marketing rather than price.

  • Jeff Artiss

    I am aware that Shaw purchased Wind – one can hope. Wind isn’t available in my area without their roam like home feature. Would just like to see some sort of change where choice is actually choice. But, like you say, it’ll not change for the better.

  • JB

    To clear up the record, MVNOs aren’t somehow disallowed in Canada, they just aren’t regulated (but should be). MBNOs exist now in the form of SpeakOutWireless (an MVNO of Rogers owned by 7-11) and others. But regulation is required, and should break apart the “flanker” brands koodo, fido, chattr, virgin, etc. from their parents to stimulate genuine competition.

  • Jeff Artiss

    I think our CRTC needs an overhaul. I guess we shouldn’t be too surprised with our cellular/data mess when we look at our TV subscription issues. At least cutting the TV cord was easy, not sure how to effectively lower my cellular/data usage with a family and teenagers.

  • I’ve got T-Mobile in the US right now, 2 iphones, 2 ipads, all wireless with 10 Gigs EACH (music streaming doesn’t count against data), free roaming to Canada/Mexico, unlimited minutes to/from Canada/Mexico for 120USD$ (155$ Cdn). Can you imagine what Rogers would charge for 40gigs of data and roaming? I dread going back to Canada next year and having to pick out a plan. The CRTC is in someone’s pocket and is not acting at all on behalf of consumers.

  • Jeff Artiss

    I recently called T-Mobile to see if I could get their service in Canada. They offer free roaming here under their plan. Couldn’t sign up without a US credit card and address. That is an awesome price. I pay $265 for 3 iPhones and combined 6GB w/ Telus.

  • Jason Reid

    Wow!!! I’ve been with Telus in Alberta for 2.5 years. Never had a contract and I have 3 iPhones unlimited everything with sharable 6gbs data for $164. You need to call in for a better price. Good luck!

  • Jeff Artiss

    Agh! I have been with them for 10+ years. I pay $60 per device (a few months left on contract for two phones, 15 months on the third). Then the 6Gb is $55 / month, then $2 visual voice mail + taxes).

    So are you doing Pay As You go or how are you doing this?? 🙂

  • 1His_Nibs1

    Couldn’t agree more about overhauling or outright scraping the CRTC and hoping a better entity can be created. You know, a government agency that actually helps the consumer instead of putting regulations in place that screws the consumer even more. cough “skinny TV” cough.

  • Jeff Artiss

    Skinny TV is a great example of a potentially good idea that was extremely messed up. /facepalm.

  • enzo

    I just moved from Vancouver to Seattle and I just got T-mobile unlimited binge-on plan. I work both in Canada and the US. I closed my rogers contract and started using t-mobile in Vancouver. Works perfect with LTE and its unlimited! The big 3 in Canada are greedy!

  • jay

    The biggest problem is the network. The coverage in a big country like Canada and also only three company are competing against. When Bell announcement a 60$ plan you can count down when telus and Roger matching the price. The government shouldn’t aloud them having the same price