updated 10:50 am EDT, Tue July 10, 2007
Rogers Data Hinders iPhone
Exorbitant data pricing could be the primary barrier to the iPhone launching in Canada, according to University of Ottawa Internet research chair Michael Geist. The professor and expert notes that a distinct lack of rivals in the Canadian cellphone business has let providers effectively monopolize pricing for accessing mobile Internet services, creating a situation where the companies can charge exceptionally high rates and refuse to offer unlimited data plans. The situation is particularly dire for the iPhone's likely carrier Rogers, which is the only major GSM network provider in Canada and has no incentive to discount its services.
"The barrier to the iPhone in Canada is not Apple," Geist says. "Rather, it is the lack of wireless competition that... leads to pricing that places Canadians at a significant disadvantage compared with other developed countries. Is it any wonder there is a petition calling on Rogers to introduce a more competitive iPhone data plan?"
The university chairman highlights the gap through the differences between AT&T's least expensive iPhone plan and Rogers' most expensive, noting that to match as many features as possible would cost a Rogers subscriber $295 Canadian ($281 US) per month -- more than $220 over what an AT&T customer would pay. And Rogers users would still be handicapped as bandwidth use would be limited to 500MB (versus unlimited) with only a tenth of the night and weekend minutes, Geist says.
Rogers has so far confirmed that its talks with Apple are "not very far" but has attributed much of the delay to preparations by Apple for its US launch. Terms discussed between the two companies have not been revealed, and no indication has been made that Rogers intends to change its plan structure for the iPhone. But the carrier may be forced to rethink its pricing, Geist notes, as the plans may neuter not just the iPhone but local firm Research in Motion and any others that want to sell data-focused phones in the country.
"Canada is not even close to being competitive with countries around in the world on data prices, which hurts Blackberry sales and reduces the use of mobile services when compared to other countries," he says.