A few months ago it looked like the face of mobile data in Canada was finally beginning to change - the media attention that the iPhone garnered both here and south of the border finally woke up Canadians to the reality that we were being hosed. A great deal of very negative media exposure followed that contained blatant comparisons to the cost of mobile data here compared to the USA.
In the weeks and months that followed the cellular carriers began to offer more flexible plans and increased bandwidth limits. It was still expensive, but instead of $100 for 200 megabytes (or as low as 25 megabytes for $90 on some devices) more flexible plans arrived that offered a gig of data for $65. Still vastly more expensive then plans south of the border, but a massive improvement none the less.
I’ve hashed over the former pricing structure before here as well as many of the changes for the better that occured late last year.
However, just when it looked like things were on the path to change, in the last several weeks the only national GSM carrier in all of Canada (Rogers / Fido) suddenly clamped down all over again, but this time it’s gone from simply stupid, to asinine. Despite recently rolling out (to much fanfare) the 3G highspeed data network, it baffles me how anyone could ever expect to actually use it., and they now seem to feel that “unauthorized” data consuming handsets on their network are to be expunged simply by pricing them out of affordability.
Adding insult to injury Rogers/Fido recently introduced what they call an “unlimited” surfing plan, but only on “approved” handsets. Not surprisingly, anything that has a keyboard or even slightly usable browsing capabilities is excluded from this unlimited plan, leaving only traditional handsets with tiny screens and no keyboards able to utilize this plan. They hype the “3G Highspeed Experience!” to everyone on these handsets, but what good is it really?
- The only “Approved” handsets load a crippled WAP (or mangled HTML) version of a website on a tiny screen
- They can load the page in a few seconds, but it takes you 2 minutes to painfully enter the URL to begin with thanks to no keyboard.
- If you dare do anything other then surf WAP website (like using an IM client) they bill you per kilobyte.
Do you have an unlocked handset, like, perhaps an iPhone like me? Sorry, you’re out of luck - you can’t use the unlimited plan, and depending on how you read their new terms of service, you might not even be able to use ANY of their current data plans - you will be stuck paying per kilobyte. My carrier does offer a 1 Gigabyte “PC Card” plan that can (and in the past, did) work on any handset you so desired (so long as you were willing to pay the $65/Month for the privledge) but word is now that they are tracking IMEI’s and enforcing this plan to only actual PC cards, not handsets.
That leaves people like me once again staring $100 per month in the face for a miserable 200 megabytes on my handset.
The word “unlimited” continues to be bantered around in the Canadian cellular market in what is apparently an effort to save face, but it becomes downright laughable when one of the unlimited offerings is only for email, and at that, only to email within certain domains! Quoting from the fine print found here:
Note: Most popular domains include Windows LiveTM Mail, GmailTM and Rogers Yahoo!® and other popular e-mail services.
Unlimited e-mails are available for emails sent and received using Windows Mobile email messaging service with an email account from one of the following supported domains: Windows Live E-mail (Hotmail, Live, MSN), Yahoo.ca, Yahoo.com, Gmail, Sympatico, Videotron, Rogers Yahoo, Telus, Shaw, Cogeco. Usage done with an email account from an unsupported domain or when launching the web browser to access and use any email accounts will be deducted from the bucket of Megabytes (MB) included in your option and will be charged on an MB overage basis thereafter.
Got a friend who uses an ISP email address, or basically anything other then the above options? You pay per kilobyte to email them. Even viewing HTML content sent within an email is billed by the kilobyte, and with extremely small included kilobyte buckets included, a few small webpages can easily exhaust it.
I don’t know what sort of marketing team came up with this pile of crap, but it seems to me that this is simply another lame effort to attach the word “unlimited” to something that hardly is. Yet again, confusing the consumer is the name of the game.
In a few days my current data plan that has served my iPhone needs for 4 months will be expiring, and I really so no viable alternative that will allow me to continue to use mobile data - I will not pay 5 cents per kilobyte for the privledge, and even if I was willing to pay $65 for the one gigabyte option, it seems that now they are forcefully restricting said plan to the PCMCIA data card it’s designed around. With my iPhone usage averaging about 300 to 400 megs per month, this leaves even the $100 for 200 megabyte plan useless for me, not to mention ridiculously priced.
Once again I’m left shaking my head. The cellular industry in Canada remains a bloated monopoly that still focuses on collusion and ripping off the consumer however possible.