updated 11:50 am EST, Wed December 16, 2009
WIND starts with Bold 9700 and low prices
Canadian provider WIND Mobile formally launched today and became the fourth major cell carrier in the country. The company pitches itself as the antithesis of typical cellphone carriers and promises none of the hidden costs of incumbents like Bell or Rogers, such as activation or service access fees. It also makes a point of offering phones and devices without contracts; while device prices are higher, it lets customers switch providers without an early termination fee.
Plans are much like those leaked earlier and focus on including features whenever possible: every plan has caller ID, conferencing, forwarding, waiting and missed call alerts that are often optional at other carriers. While a $15 starting voice plan only provides 100 minutes of talk and 50 outbound messages,a $35 plan provides unlimited calling within a subscriber's province; a $45 plan allows for free Canada-wide calls.
WIND also bills itself as the first Canadian carrier to offer truly unlimited data even for smartphones and modems, charging just $35 and $45 respectively for the feature. The carrier's rivals so far only offer about 1GB of data at similar pricing.
Several devices accompany the launch, two of which are smartphones. Besides the BlackBerry Bold 9700, WIND also expects to carry the HTC Maple, its version of the Windows Mobile-based Snap. These will cost $450 and $300 respectively and will be joined by a lone USB modem, the Huawei E181 ($150) as well as feature phones like the Samsung Gravity 2 (also $150) and Huawei U7519 ($130).
Fully native overage and retail shops will primarily focus on the greater Toronto area and Calgary this week, with Edmonton, Ottawa and Vancouver becoming available in 2010. WIND has a roaming agreement and so can provide coverage across Canada in areas it doesn't yet serve itself.
The service potentially upturns the Canadian cellular market, where the three major existing carriers often have similar pricing and have been accused of abusing a relatively safe position by often pushing three-year contracts, capping data transfers and concealing the true costs of phones from customers.