Rogers to CRTC: Wireless Market is ‘Intensely Competitive’; 5G is About ‘Nation-Building’

Yesterday, Rogers testified in front of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) at the latter’s public hearing on wireless services in Canada. Rogers argued the wireless market in Canada is “intensely competitive” and building 5G networks is equivalent to ‘nation-building’.

In his opening remarks, Rogers CEO Joe Natale explained his company and the wireless industry itself has failed to inform Canadians of the country’s “world-class” networks and also the “intensely competitive wireless market that continues to deliver more affordability and value for Canadians.”

Natale pointed out investments in 5G are “about nation-building” and compared it to the railroad from 150 years ago.

“We have built a great industry where Canada dominates when it comes to coverage and quality – reaching 99% of Canadians with wireless speeds second only to South Korea,” said Natale.

The Rogers CEO says the wireless industry “has not fully matured” and “still needs careful nourishing”, when it comes to 5G and beyond.

When it comes to wireless pricing, Natale said Canada’s rates compare to those of the United States, referencing a Verizon unlimited plan starting at just over $90 CAD, versus $75 for a Rogers Infinite plan.

Natale also noted about the “exploding costs of smartphones”, mentioned Apple’s iPhone when it came out in 2007 was $700, but today, a flagship iPhone costs nearly $2,000.

Rogers had Richard Feasey, a hired telecom expert, detail his report about mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs).

“There is now strong evidence that wholesale regulation with mandated rates has had a significant negative impact on wireline investment. There is no reason in my view to think that wholesale regulation would not have the same adverse impact on wireless network investment, including in 5G,” said Feasey.

The CRTC wants to consider MVNOs to increase competition and lower prices. MVNOs would be able to resell wholesale network spectrum from wireless incumbents, directly to Canadians.

Natale argued the “fourth carrier policy is working”, referring to how in 2019, Freedom Mobile and Videotron took in one-third of net new wireless customers. “This is not a market crying out for mandated MVNOs,” added the Rogers CEO.

“MVNOs do not bridge the digital divide. They do not bring new services to underserved communities. They do not bring more rural coverage to Canadians,” said Natale.

Rogers told the CRTC its average customer uses 2.5GB of data per month, while the company’s break-even plan price is about $40 or so.

In regards to a Manitoba consumer advocacy group’s proposal for a universal wireless plan, Natale said Rogers could consider the proposed $25 to $30 calling and texting plan with 4GB data per month, if it was limited to select disadvantaged customers, reports The Canadian Press.

But the Rogers CEO said if such a plan were made right now for everyone it would “eradicate” the majority of the company’s profit and “stop investment in totality.”