The sad reality of Canadian cellphone prices in one chart

Sky-high per-gigabyte costs are contributing to considerably lower data usage, report finds.

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Canadian Cellphone Prices:

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How depressing is it to be a cellphone user in Canada?

Numerous studies have answered that particular question in a myriad of ways, but as the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words.

The chart below, from Sweden-based telecommunications consultancy Tefficient, tells the story succinctly:

wireless revenue, tefficient

Here’s the Reader’s Digest version. The vertical axis on the left measures how many gigabytes typical cellphone subscribers in different countries use per month. The horizontal axis along the bottom shows how much money, in euros, cellphone carriers make per gigabyte.

Canada is alone way over on the right and near the bottom. In other words: Canadians are using comparatively little data – about one gigabtye – compared to people in other countries, but Canadian carriers are making far more money than their counterparts anywhere else.

Let’s put this into perspective. Canadian carriers are making about 45 euros – about $62 Canadian – for every gigabyte of data used. In Finland, carriers are making about 2 euros – or less than $3 – for every 7 GB used.

Even Americans are making out like bandits compared to Canadians. U.S. carriers are making less than half their Canadian counterparts while providing customers more than double the equivalent data.

As Tefficient’s report puts it, “The most expensive mobile data countries are Canada, Belgium, Germany, Czech Republic and the Netherlands and – as a consequence – mobile users in these countries are using very little mobile data. The average consumption in Finland is 13 [times] that of the Netherlands,” and Canada.

What can be done about this? Nothing, evidently. Canada’s governments and regulators have been trying to lower wireless prices for the better part of a decade, to no avail.

The CRTC is also this week expected to introduce new basic broadband definitions and regulations. If those rules mean any sort of additional costs to the country’s vertically integrated service providers, they’re virtually assured to pass those on to their wireless customers in the form of more rate hikes.

Merry Christmas everyone!

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5 Comments on The sad reality of Canadian cellphone prices in one chart

  1. Visually, this chart is stunning! I’m not sure how they justify becoming an outlier in their own industry and imply that we get the same value as other countries. They have done a very good job at getting money out of consumers.

    At this extreme, the industry is setting itself up for a shakeup. Either through regulation by CRTC/government (which seems to annoy them at best) or new technological disruption that will kill their revenue model (Google Fi? some other advance?). I think we’re starting to see this happening with TV packages due to competition from Netflix, other less savoury streaming sources, etc.

    • Government and regulators have tried and failed for more than a decade to shake things up so I agree, it’s going to require a Netflix-like disruption. What will that be and when will it come? Who knows.

  2. Tying the last two things together is unfortunate Peter as it belittles in advance the very likely quantum leap we will take with broadband policy on Wednesday.

    • We all thought that spectrum set-asides was a quantum leap for wireless policy a decade ago but it didn’t turn out that way. The point of my comment is that in the vertically integrated whack-a-mole system we have, the veritable house always wins. Always.

  3. I may be wrong, but I believe the chart is showing that in Finland, the carriers are receiving ~$3 for every GB used, not every 7 GBs used. To calculate the cost for the 7 GB used, you’d take the vertical axis value * the horizontal axis value, so 7 GB * $3 = $21 for 7 GB, not $3 for 7 GB.

    Due to this, I think the sentince “In Finland, carriers are making about 2 euros – or less than $3 – for every 7 GB used.” needs to be updated to something more along the lines of this: “In Finland, carriers are making about 2 euros – or less than $3 – for every GB used.” Still an impressive difference!

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