MVNOs Can Lower Cellphone Prices Says OpenMedia, But Rogers and Telus Disagree

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The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) is currently holding its public hearing on the state of wireless services in Canada, which aims to look into mobile network virtual operators (MVNOs) as one way to lower cellphone prices.

Vancouver-based non-profit, OpenMedia, is advocating for MVNOs to increase competition and lower wireless prices. With MVNOs, smaller companies would buy wholesale network access from incumbents Rogers, Telus and Bell, then resell them to customers.

According to OpenMedia digital campaigner, Rodrigo Samayoa, he tells News1130 MVNOs in the United States and Europe have increased competition and lowered prices for consumers.

“It has been the proven method to bring in more competition and lower prices,” said Samayoa, to the Rogers Media-owned publication.

However, a Rogers spokesperson disagreed with OpenMedia’s claims in an email to News1130, saying “The price of wireless data at Rogers has decreased 50% over the last five years and is continuing to come down.”

Rogers said based on a study it commissioned from telecom industry expert, Richard Feasey, there is no need for MVNOs to use the company’s networks.

Telus similarly stated MVNOs won’t bring benefits to consumers, with a spokesperson telling News1130, “mandated wholesale access offers no consumer benefits, distorts competition, stalls innovation and disproportionately harms rural consumers.” Telus said MVNOs increasing competition and lowering prices has been “disproven in a number of jurisdictions around the world.”

OpenMedia told iPhone in Canada in a statement, “we are fully in favour of the CRTC opening up the market to them. We believe that giving people more choice will be good for people and will help lower the price of cell phone plans. The mobile market is too concentrated in the hands of the Big Three and it is really difficult for new companies to enter the market, which is why the CRTC has to step in and set the stage for MVNOs to come in to shake up the market.”

The original News1130 story was published on February 18, 2020, but was taken down on February 19, 2020, for unknown reasons (Rogers Media owns News1130). OpenMedia told iPhone in Canada in an email it may have been related to one of Samayoa’s quotes in the story. The News1130 story went back online this morning.

OpenMedia will be speaking at the CRTC public hearing next Friday. Telus is testifying right now on Day 3 of the CRTC hearing.