Why Unlimited Data Plans in Canada Will Never Happen, Explain Rogers and Bell

A recent CBC News article questions why Canada doesn’t have unlimited data plans, unlike our neighbours down south, where the five largest wireless players—AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint and U.S. Cellular—all offer plans with unlimited data.

CBC News asked the Big 3 for comment as to why there aren’t any unlimited data plans in Canada. Their explanations on why you can’t get unlimited data may help you sleep better at night.

Bell told the CBC there are already numerous plans with “generous” amounts of wireless data, and also explained how the usage-based approach is required to pay for “tremendous costs” needed to expand their high speed networks nationwide, plus also cope with the surge in mobile data use.

Rogers spokesperson Andrew Garas emailed CBC News to say, “It just isn’t feasible to offer unlimited plans,” while also noting the company has numerous tools for customers to manage and monitor their data usage.

Telus did not respond to the CBC’s request for comment.

CBC News said the closest unlimited data plan they could find was from MTS, a $75 per month plan with 15GB of high speed data, then throttled after the latter limit is reached. But this option may be jeopardy with Bell recently finalizing their acquisition of MTS thanks to regulatory approvals.

Last year, Rogers and Bell provided similar statements to CBC News, when consumer group OpenMedia was advocating for unlimited and affordable wireless plans. Rogers said at the time “The network capacity isn’t there and it would weaken performance for everyone,” while Bell said the network-based approach was “by far the most economical” for most customers.

Years ago, when the Conservative government was in power, they noted in 2008, Canada’s incumbents held 97% of wireless airwaves in an ad blitz against the Big 3. While those numbers may have slightly changed today, there’s no questioning Rogers, Telus and Bell still hold an iron clad grip on the wireless market in Canada, in what has been called an oligopoly by some, including Canada’s Competition Bureau, in a recent interview with BNN (thanks @BenKlass).

Do you want unlimited data plans in Canada? If they ever do arrive in Canada–how much are you willing to pay for them?

Founder and Editor-in-Chief of iPhoneinCanada.ca. Follow me on Twitter, and @iPhoneinCanada, and on Google+.

  • Corey Beazer

    When i travelled to Costa Rica a few years back, most of the plans were unlimited, you payed more for the faster speed. I think that would be a good way to go.

  • Strigoi

    I have unlimited Canada wide data with MTS and unlimited tethering (Canada wide) I am really scared when Bell takes over, what will I get taken away and how much more will have to pay.

  • @thecdn1967

    Hell yeah! And I would be will to pay as much as Americans do (plus exchange)- so about $75-$90/ line CDN.

  • Jean-Phillippe Choquette

    I got an unlimited plan with Vidéotron 2 years ago, I always connect my laptop to it and usually do 80 gb per month! Also have and average speed os 1.4 mo/s of download and 0.6 mo/s upload ! This plan cost me 80$ per month 🙂

  • I’m actually okay with my data limit. For a long time I had a 2GB plan with Fido and I never went over. Recently I switched the the 4GB plan that they had on promo to compete with Public Mobile as it was cheaper than my 2GB plan. No surprise that I’ve not come close to hitting the 4GB limit, but it is a nice to have if I do end up travelling a lot one month, which is rare.

    Of course, I’d love to pay less for data, obviously. But for my usage, 4GB is more than enough.

  • Flash

    I’d be happy paying $100 for a NA 5Gb plan. $150 for a 150 county 5gb plan.

  • warpdrive

    I agree.

  • It’s Me

    When I was there a couple years ago they weren’t unlimited, at least not through Kolbi/Ice. They were very cheap/reasonable but not unlimited.

    The big three excuses here make little sense. Their same arguments would apply elsewhere, especially in the US with higher population density causing more network utilization and having a much larger amount of area to cover instead of a narrow strip like Canada. Yet they are able to offer unlimited.

    The big 3 should just be honest: they won’t offer it because they coordinate pricing together so there is no need for competitive offers like unlimited data. When you control the market and collude you dictate prices and offers instead of the market doing so.

  • joeyconnick

    “in what has been called an oligopoly by some, including Canada’s Competition Bureau”

    Uhm… yeah, the way that is worded makes it sound like there is some doubt they are an oligopoly.

    There is not. They are the textbook definition of an oligopoly. Don’t use weasel wording to introduce uncertainty that only benefits their predatory practices.

  • JB

    Translated: “why on god’s green earth would we EVER trade profit for service??”

    Here’s my answer for you: “regulations”. Time to mandate MVNO operation/wholesaling and bill segregation for device subsidies. Oh, and abolish device unlocking while we’re at it.

  • MleB1

    If the plans were unlimited, it would offer competition on multiple devices / apps that would directly challenge exorbitantly-priced internet services, which, coincidentally, the wireless companies also own. Airplay or Cast your favourite Netflix from your phone or tablet to your TV at no cost? Yeah, that won’t happen…

  • Dominic

    Right ? it’s like the writer was too concerned about offending someone.

  • So Young

    I think mobile wireless internet is too variant for home internet usage. Speeds are usually unstable depending on where you are, and if you play games online a lot, a residential internet plan is a must just for stability and lag free connections.

    Unlimired LTE plans would be awesome, but I’m not even close to close my home internet account anytime soon.

  • DigitalMann

    Freedom Mobile!!!

  • Aleks Oniszczak

    Now that Rogers, Bell and Telus has trained us to think that limiting data is normal (even though unlimited data exists in the US), limiting TV is next. Imagine if watching TV for more than X hours a month would lead to overage charges. Makes about as much sense.

  • dudemaster

    They said the same thing about residential internet plans. Now they all offer unlimited home internet for a fixed price.
    Rogers and Bell are full of horse-poo.

  • SOB

    I am fine with my data limit. Just slash the price by $20 and I will be happy.

  • raslucas

    Soooo many tools and yet no way to opt out of overages! How about cut off my data and send me a text offering to opt IN to more data? Oh right, you wouldn’t make as much money on my ignorance…

  • raslucas

    I don’t mind no unlimited for cellular. Cellular has a lot more congestion issues than home internet does because the ISPs don’t have control over where people use their phones at a given time and location.

  • raslucas

    Oh, I don’t mean the ISPs control home users, but they have time to deploy their network when someone signs up and it doesn’t really change…

  • raslucas

    Like Bell’s Mobile TV eh?

  • raslucas

    I also feel like Canadians would be a lot happier with their limited data if they didn’t expire at the end of the month and rolled over. In 25 years, when one of the carriers’ executives comes up with that idea, its crush

  • Aleks Oniszczak

    Yup. It starts with mobile. Next stop – your TV set.

  • Dominic

    I think Koodo is the only one that does that.

  • erth

    i wonder how much their tune would change if t-mobile showed up in canada…. their answer is in today’s mindset. this will change, just like our home internet is now unlimited.

  • Rich Baker

    You must enjoy throwing money away because that’s a rip off

  • Rich Baker

    That’s great your overpriced data is enough for you. Others have different uses that far exceed what you use and there is not even a reasonable option for them. The big 3 are ripping us off huge and they have people believing the prices we pay are reasonable.

  • Yeah, I’m aware that other people have higher data needs. I’m not saying that those needs aren’t valid, I just thought I’d answer the question for myself and offer a different perspective.

  • Well, the thing is, T-Mobile can’t just “show up in Canada.” They’d either have to buy a spectrum, then spend billions of dollars building a network, or they’d have to cut a deal with one of the big three to piggyback off of their network. Either way they wouldn’t be able to offer the low prices they do in the states, because they’d have to figure out how to cover those costs with a tenth of the available subscribers.

  • Bill___A

    I remember when roaming rates were $50 per megabyte when going to UK, I was told they were “never” going to go down and I think they went to $15, and I believe was told again they would “never” go down. Now we are at $10 per day and $100 or $150 per billing period extra. They’ve finally gotten down to manageable. Although it would be nice to have “unlimited” data plans, I expect the very same group of people, who are a small percentage but who go completely overboard with usage on home internet (and caused there to be plan limits) are the same people who would put 5 friends on a share plan and all watch movies continuously.

    I would like to have unlimited data but I am quite sure someone would ruin it.

  • Bill___A

    I notice the plan I have with Rogers is $15 a gigabyte for overages, but if I were to switch plans today, the overage is $5 per 100 megs. If one reads the fine print, you notice the subtle little changes. This is more than a three times increase in the cost of overages…I believe the Telus overage price is similar.

  • NOHoldsBar

    “CBC News asked the Big 3 for comment as to why there aren’t any unlimited data plans in Canada. Their explanations on why you can’t get unlimited data may help you sleep better at night”.

    Seriously, are you getting dementia Gary? When you make ridiculous posts like this, your credibility sinks deeper and deeper into the abyss.

    Other advanced societies like Taiwan and countries both larger and smaller than Canada have unlimited data at ridiculously reasonable prices. Robelus is sounding like the gasoline companies or Gasbuddy spokesman Dan giving endless excuses on why we pay this much or get so little.

    All of the excuses and reasons have virtually no merit, yet you believe this Gary? If you’re going to post such rubbish, perhaps it’s best you don’t post anything at all. I suggest you get a job working for Donald Trump if you believe in all the lies you are told or read.

  • NOHoldsBar

    And the head of the competition bureau is saying the general public, like Gary don’t do a good job in negotiating a good plan. I guess the jerk at the bureau is correct if the public will just suck it up.

  • NOHoldsBar

    Bill, there are always exceptions. Your reasoning is seriously flawed if you think a few “bad apples” will ruin unlimited calling for everyone should it be offered at a reasonable price.

  • NOHoldsBar

    The better question is if Joe or Jane Canuck could get a pay as you go plan or plan in the USA without credit check that would offer unlimited data/roaming and calling to and from Canada/USA at an awesome price. That would cause a huge dent in the profits of Robelus.

  • NOHoldsBar

    Speak for yourself….they only trained the weak minded people to think how they want.

  • NOHoldsBar

    I’d rather not have a cell phone then go with Wind/Freedom Mobile.

  • NOHoldsBar

    Who [really] needs a mobile data connection to play on your mobile device? As long as the minimum sustainable real world speeds could allow you to stream 720p or HD that is all that is required. If you want to play your Xbox via LTE then you need to get your priorities straight.

    Besides, most consumers do not need more than 30 Mbps unless you have a business and need ridiculous speeds or running a hotel and a wifi hotspot. In that case, you have a business account which you shouldn’t compare to home internet use.

  • NOHoldsBar

    Flash, I’d like to sell you my HB pencil for $100. Send me a message. I accept paypal.

  • Aleks Oniszczak

    Don’t worry – unlimited works in other countries, so I’m sure it would work here. The users that would “ruin” it for the others is just a story Rogers likes to tell.

  • NOHoldsBar

    Yeah,I hear you. Some folks are ok getting things shoved up the arse without any lube. Thumbs up on your huge tolerance to being abused.

  • NOHoldsBar

    Very few people think like you Ryan. Don’t think for one moment that you represent most people. The telecos love people like you and use folks like you to argue their position. The fact is Ryan, we are using MORE data and bandwidth. NOT less! If you’re not using more data on your mobile device, then you’re using it somewhere else like at home or wifi hotspots. Regardless, you’re using more and the telecos are preying on this fact.

  • NOHoldsBar

    what is mo/s? did you create a new form of data measurement?

  • Aleks Oniszczak

    Starbucks, an American company, was able to spend billions to build a network of coffee shops in Canada and were able to keep their prices pretty close to what they charge in the US despite Canada only having a tenth of the population.

  • NOHoldsBar

    You know very well the public can’t handle the truth, right?

  • mcfilmmakers

    They absolutely have control. Thats why they throttle. The problem is that they dont want to spend their profit, like a business should, to increase capacity and bandwidth, which btw, wouldnt actually be an issue because you arent using data while you talk on the phone. The increase in actual usage would be minimal.

  • Okay, opening a coffee shop is a completely different ball game than opening a cellular network service. With coffee shops, you can open them one at a time in high-traffic locations where you’ll get a lot of business, then expand as you continue to find success. People buy coffee one cup at a time, wherever they feel compelled to that day. We don’t pick one coffee shop brand to subscribe to and then have to pay extra fees to drink coffee somewhere else. If that were the case, far less people would subscribe to Waves or Second Cup and the majority of people would be subscribed to Tim Horton’s, as you can get it almost anywhere.

    If everyone was just looking for unlimited data, then Wind Mobile would have instantly become one of the top cellphone providers, but it seems a lot of people also care about coverage and actually being able to use their phone wherever they go.

  • I didn’t say I wasn’t using more somewhere else, nor did I claim to be the majority. I didn’t even say that I was okay with the cost of my plan (in fact I indicated the opposite). All I was doing was answering the question posted at the end of the article asking if I want unlimited data plans in Canada. Years ago I would have said “hell yes,” but then if I look at my plan usage I realize I don’t really need it. I’m just being honest, and sharing the facts about my personal data usage. I don’t understand why everyone is so upset about the fact that I (just me) don’t need an unlimited data plan.

  • Aleks Oniszczak

    If you don’t like coffee, then let’s talk about Orange S.A., formerly France Télécom S.A., – a French multinational telecommunications with cell service in MULTIPLE countries:

    Europe

    Belgium
    France
    Luxembourg
    Moldova
    Poland
    Romania
    Slovakia
    Spain

    Africa Middle-East

    Botswana
    Burkina Faso
    Cameroon
    Ivory Coast
    Egypt
    Equatorial Guinea
    Guinea-Bissau
    Guinea Conakry
    Iraq (non-controlling equity interest)
    Jordan
    Liberia
    Madagascar
    Mali
    Morocco
    Mauritius (non-controlling equity interest)
    Niger
    Centrafrican Republic
    Democratic Republic of the Congo
    Senegal
    Sierra Leone
    Tunisia (non-Controlling equity interest)

  • NoHoldsBar’s Mommy

    From how I interpreted, there is a sense of sarcasm in this post, so clearly you missed that (like a lot of things in life). All you do is cry non stop from your comments, nothing makes you happy in life, clearly. Get some help, brosky

  • NoHoldsBar’s Daddy

    Kinda like when you were abused in school for being a nerdy little kid in the corner, wake up. He’s just saying 4GB works for him now, but of course we want more. Get your jet black D out of yoru butt bro

  • JoeysBrosky

    And you’ll do nothing about it but continue to pay their prices, so shaddap, come up with real solutions instead of crying

  • NoHoldsBarisWeak

    Yep, he’s right, exactly how you keep paying your monstrous cellphone bill each month. You just sit there and take it, just the way you like it.

  • I’m not saying carriers never expand to other countries, I’m saying that expanding into a country as massive as ours would require a huge initial investment only to compete in a market that already has a lot of competition. Most of those countries you listed have high population densities and much smaller land masses. Thus the initial investment is a lot lower for more potential customers. It’s also a lot easier to put up cell towers in Africa than it is in Canada. I’m not saying it’s impossible, just that it’s not like T-Mobile or any other carrier can simply “show up in Canada.” It’s a big commitment. There have been other networks that have looked into it and decided against it. I think there’s a reason for that.

  • Why is that?

  • Aleks Oniszczak

    Check a map of cellphone coverage in Canada and you’ll see that MOST of Canada is NOT covered. The Telcos focus on putting up towers in areas where there are people. Land area makes no difference in this argument. I think it’s regulations that keep competitors out of Canada.

  • ojamali

    Dont know where you got this idea from “The problem is that they dont want to spend their profit, like a business should, to increase capacity and bandwidth”. The utmost task of the publicly traded company is to work towards shareholder equity and disburse dividends when possible. The shareholders are the ones that have rished their harded earned $$$ and just like they lose money when the share goes down they are entitled to gain from the sharevalue as well. Everything else comes after that. So if you want to benefit from their profits i would say roll the dice and pick the shares you want to buy (Bell/Rogers/Telus), cross your fingers and if you pick the rights ones you have a lot to gain.

  • TwitchyPuppy

    Yeah, I’d be happy with roll over data! ????

  • Bill___A

    I don’t have data, it was just speculation. I would like to see it where we have unlimited but those who have gone over a certain monthly threshold are throttled when there is congestion.

  • Bill___A

    Write a business plan, then sell it to investors….remember it took over 20 years to get our mobile infrastructure to where it is even now…

  • Bill___A

    Really. We should get complete coverage in the arctic?

  • Aleks Oniszczak

    I’m sure people living up there would like it, but that’s not my point. I’m saying Rogers et al use the large area of Canada as an excuse to charge us more, but I’m saying they only cover a small fraction of Canada so their excuse doesn’t hold up.