The wireless Prairies, where more begets more

CRTC report shows bills high bills in Prairie provinces, but customers getting extra value.

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Wireless Prairies:

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There was at least one chart in the CRTC’s Communications Monitoring Report that caught wireless industry watchers’ collective eye when it was released recently.

The chart in question shows average revenue per user (ARPU) by province and territory, also known as the size of the typical subscriber’s bill. Customers in the north have the biggest bills at $92.37 per month, while Quebeckers pay the least at $56.92.

What’s most interesting is the fact that subscribers in Manitoba and Saskatchewan have higher bills than their counterparts in Ontario, at $63.21 and $64.45, versus $61.56, respectively:

wireless, arpu

It’s a surprising result on the face of it, given that the Prairie provinces boast much lower wireless prices than the rest of Canada.

Consumer advocates such as Open Media say those lower prices are because of the presence of strong fourth carriers. Manitoba and Saskatchewan are served, after all, by MTS and Sasktel respectively, on top of the national Big Three of Bell, Rogers and Telus.

In some cases, prices are half of what they are elsewhere in Canada. It’s so bad that a black market of sorts has arisen, with enterprising individuals selling hacks to cheaper Prairie plans to Canadians in other provinces.

Industry boosters believe the Prairies’ high revenue figures somehow counter the argument that more carriers equal lower prices:


MTS and Sasktel don’t publicly disclose their ARPU figures, but looking at the CRTC numbers in conjunction with their wireless plans does much to illuminate the apparent weirdness. It also reaffirms the competition-price dichotomy.

A bring-your-own-phone Bell customer in Ontario, for example, gets unlimited nation-wide calling and 2 gigabytes for data for $90 a month. In Manitoba, the same customer would get unlimited calling and a whopping 15 GB of data for just $80. That’s more than seven times the data for $10 less a month.

The answer to the mystery of the CRTC chart is ultimately quite simple. Residents of Saskatchewan and Manitoba may be paying slightly more on their wireless bills than people in Ontario, but they are getting much, much more.

The lesson is that consumers tend to voluntarily pay more when they’re actually getting more. What a novel concept.

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1 Comment on The wireless Prairies, where more begets more

  1. Something else to keep in mind is for about six years now MB & SK have had $65/month entry point plans that include 5 GB of data and unlimited voice while entitling customers to the highest discount on a new phone. To me those numbers say there are missed opportunities in other parts of the country if something fair to both the customers and providers was offered.

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