Rogers has finally offered an unlimited wireless data plan — will Bell and Telus follow?

Rogers has finally offered an unlimited wireless data plan — will Bell and Telus follow?
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Rogers Communications has announced the first unlimited data wireless plan from a major national carrier in Canada, a move that some say will likely trigger a response from rivals Bell and Telus and that follows increased pressure from Ottawa to provide more affordable cellphone services.

The Toronto-based company said its new unlimited Infinite plans, which will launch on Thursday, will start at $75 for up to 10 gigabytes of full-speed data usage per month, followed by unlimited data at reduced speeds but without additional fees for going over the limit.

If customers, who are also able to pool data from family and friends, need more high-speed data they can buy a “Speed Pass” to add 3 gigabytes for $15. Rogers also said new lower-cost financing options will be available later this summer.

“It’s an unlimited plan, sort of,” said Duncan Stewart, director of technology, media and telecommunications research for Deloitte Canada. He said carriers around the world are moving to raise or remove data caps in preparation for the launch of 5G networks that will offer far faster download speeds and presage a boost in data use. Stewart said most major carriers that offer unlimited plans include some limits on data or download speed, calling truly unlimited offers the exception.

In a statement, Rogers CEO Joe Natale said the new plans “will help our customers unleash the full potential of 4G wireless services today and 5G wireless services tomorrow.” A Rogers spokesperson added that the plans are designed to ignite growth. “We expect data usage and penetration to continue to grow.”

Canada’s three national carriers have been slower to adopt unlimited data plans than U.S. wireless networks, although unlimited data plans have been available from Shaw Communications-owned regional competitor Freedom Mobile, which operates networks in Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia.

“The real question isn’t why Rogers has introduced unlimited plans now, but why they didn’t do it years ago,” said Laura Tribe, executive director of advocacy group OpenMedia. She added that “it all comes down to a lack of competition” in Canada, where Bell, Rogers and Telus dominate the market. “We’ve seen these kinds of unlimited plans in other countries like the U.S. for some time.”

While Tribe said U.S. offerings from major carriers are still lower-priced than Canadian plans, “it’s good to see people here finally recognize the need for unlimited data.” She added that it wouldn’t be surprising to see Bell and Telus follow suit with unlimited plans in the coming months.

A spokesperson for Montreal-based Bell would only say, “We don’t have unlimited plans at present.”

B.C.-based Telus would not say whether it has plans to launch an unlimited plan, but in a statement, the company noted that it will launch a promotional plan on Thursday at the same $75 price as the Rogers plan that would offer 10 gigabytes of data, plus a five-gigabite bonus.

Navdeep Bains, the federal minister responsible for telecom services, at an event in Toronto last week said Canadians pay some of the highest wireless fees in the world and that his government could allow more competition, possibly permitting virtual telecom operators to piggy back on established carriers’ networks, to bring prices down.

Telecom industry regulator the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission in February initiated a review of mobile wireless services to assess the choice and affordability available in Canada.

“Maybe the industry is trying to get out ahead of the regulator,” said Stewart, suggesting that any federal move to impose a requirement for unlimited plans would be more costly to carriers than voluntary steps.
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