Big 3 Wireless Carriers ‘Acting as an Oligopoly’ Says Lethbridge Professor

University of Lethbridge professor Michael Madore, from the Faculty of Management, told the Lethbridge Herald Canadian wireless users are dealing with an ‘oligopoly’ when it comes to the wireless industry, in reference to recent across the board $5/month price hikes by incumbent carriers.

Describing the ‘Big 3′ carriers in Canada, he says “Rogers, Telus and Bell are acting as an oligopoly. It’s very difficult for a new party to come in and gain presence.” An oligopoly exists when there are only a few players in an industry or market he explains.

Madore went on to say “It’s really based on supply and demand of markets. As long as Canadians are not going to push this with the government you’re going to continue to see the rates go up, I think.”

There’s not much consumers can do, other than to stop using wireless services or complain to carriers, but the professor explains companies know you want the service at the end of the day. For change to come, Canada would need six or seven players he says to bring price changes, say Madore.

Ken Whitehurst from the Consumers Council of Canada says they consistently hear complaints about wireless pricing but also challenges consumers face when it comes to customer service in dealing with the ‘Big 3’:

“A lot of the aggravation is service level and difficulty in getting billing sorted out. This further creates anger around pricing,” he said. “From our perspective the industry needs to take a good, hard look at itself because it won’t simply be the case that they can be unresponsive to consumers because marketplace pressures will either come out directly in the marketplace or it will come out through political means in a regulated area.”

Whitehurst suggested people can complain to the CRTC and Commissioner for Complaints for Telecommunications Services (CCTS) if they have issues with their wireless services. As for getting a better deal outside of a contract, Whitehursts suggests getting an unlocked phone and shopping around for services.

This story doesn’t shed anything new on how some Canadians feel about their wireless services. However, there are lower prices to be had depending on your location, such as in Manitoba, Saskatchewan or Quebec, which have regional wireless competitors to the Big 3, bringing lower prices. As for the rest of Canada, you’re out of luck.

Those in an area with good WIND Mobile coverage, you can jump on the company’s latest $39/month unlimited talk, text and data plan which includes U.S. roaming too.

Slightly less expensive prices are out there, if you know where to look and act (such as using an unlocked iPhone versus one on contract). But if you can’t resist signing contracts to get subsidized pricing on newer smartphones, you’ll have to pay the added costs that go along with them, right?