Rogers CEO Laurence: Last quarter was ‘the most fiercely competitive in the history of Canadian mobile’

Daniel Bader

January 27, 2016 10:29pm

The three months ending on December 31st were “the most fiercely competitive quarter probably in the history of Canadian mobile,” according to Rogers CEO, Guy Laurence.

The British-born executive, who took over day-to-day operations of the company in 2014, made the remarks during Rogers’ Q4 earnings call this morning. He said that most of last year saw the Big Three carriers make huge plays for Canadian wireless customers, including discounting handsets and, in rarely-seen moves, offering promotional prices on some popular wireless plans.

Laurence added that such levels of competitiveness within the wireless market are “the new normal,” noting that the sustained level of ferocity between Rogers, Telus and Bell “reached new levels in December and [will] continue that way.”

Rogers chief financial officer, Tony Staffieri, said on the call that the growth of bring-your-own-device, or BYOD, heavily impacted so-called blended ARPU, which combines the average revenue per user between prepaid and postpaid blocks of customers. Blended ARPU dropped $0.70 compared to a year ago, to $59.16. “BYOD phenomenon that is happening,” and was a “factor in the fourth quarter.”

Rogers, like Telus and Bell, virtually eliminated BYOD benefits during their recent price increase, likely because the growth of the segment was negatively impacting ARPU growth in the postpaid category. That said, postpaid ARPA, or average revenue per account, rose $4.12 in the quarter compared to the same period a year ago. Rogers now has a total of 9.88 million customers.

The company also said that there are now 2.3 million wireless customers signed up for Roam Like Home, which is a more than a quarter of its postpaid base. As MobileSyrup reported earlier this week, Roger announced additional coverage for its Roam Like Home program, including popular tourist destinations like Russia, China, India and Australia.

Read more: Rogers will effectively eliminate bring-your-own-device benefits on January 20

  • Jason

    “the most fiercely competitive quarter probably in the history of Canadian mobile” well he’s not wrong I think there were 4-6 major plan changes, so I guess what he means by that is “how quickly can someone change something then how quickly can we match it”

    • cartfan88

      I’d love to only have to compete with 2 others that simultaneously increase prices when we do. Sounds tough.

    • It’s Me

      Yup, it was the fiercest competition between the big three to raise rates the fastest and the highest. No other country in the world sees that kind of competition in wireless and after the election they all went into a spasm of competing to gouge more and more.

  • David

    The mobile market is so competitive we could only raise rates by $5 on BYOD plans.

    • It’s Me

      More than that, they agreed to work to kill BYOD discounts entirely so you will pay the same whether you bring your own or not. In effect you are repaying the subsidy for a phone whether you took a subsidy or not.

      Yay competition!

    • Laer

      I really hope the political will exists to mandate plan and phone prices be completely decoupled. Let’s end this scam.

    • It’s Me

      It doesn’t. Even if Justin had an interest in doing so (I don’t think he does) it would be very far down his list of priorities. The carriers know this, hence their immediate rush to gouge.

    • therealsybarite

      hopefully current government will go about trying to fix this better then previous government. need to remove all foreign ownership restrictions. allow china mobile, vodafone, verizon, att and the like to enter canadian market.
      that’s the only way to increase competition.

    • Aaron Hoyland

      As a consumer, I completely agree that this is immensely frustrating. But when you say “agree”, you’re implying that it’s formal price-fixing, which it almost certainly isn’t. They don’t need to agree to anything; they know that contracts make it very difficult to switch carriers, so they can just follow whomever decides to raise prices first.

    • Skin Blues

      If you didn’t take a subsidy then your BYOD plan is still the same (lower) price. If you sign up for one of the new BYOD plans then yeah, you’re being screwed, and would be better off taking the subsidy and selling the new phone. But then again, if you already have a phone you want to keep using, and your’e already on a plan, why would you be signing up for a this new BYOD plan in the first place???

    • It’s Me

      Yeah so grandfathered plans stay for now. But if you change carriers or plans or are new, then byop means paying for a subsidy you never received.

  • Mo Dabbas

    That explains why they raised their prices. They should raise it more if they want to attract more customers.

    • 1messager

      Yeah i’m agree with you, we don’t pay enough in canada i hope one day i will pay 200$ by month for 1 contract with 1 phone. ^^

    • h2oflyer

      Be careful what you wish for!

    • 1messager

      Lol i’m just kidding ^^

    • h2oflyer

      Yeah I know. You never know when those CEO’S cruise this site looking for tips. LOL

    • 1messager

      Lool ya never know ^^

  • MoYeung

    “discounting handsets and, in rarely-seen moves, offering promotional prices on some popular wireless plans.”

    When and where? I totally missed out.

    • Theo

      There was $10/month off for 2 years on additional lines on Share Everything plans back in december

    • MoYeung

      Oh that one … Share Everything plan discount on 2 lines or more.

    • G.P.

      Black Friday with fido I got a 2 gig byod unlimited calling for $49 a month. That is as discounted as iu have seen in years

    • MoYeung

      The regular price of that plan was $55 on telus, Rogers, bell…

    • G.P.

      That price was not offered for 55 at bell as I was with bell byod with a 10% corporate discount however the discount only applied to the voice portion of $35 and not the full 70 price tag with w gig and since they would not budge lower than 70 on black Friday I moved to fido for 49 bucks. Res assured I called bell so many times including after I got my fido simcard I called to tell them I had a fido sim and prepared to switch. Bell rep told me to switch as they could not offer me any discount as an existing customer.

    • MoYeung

      Sorry, I meant on Fido, Virgin, Koodoo, but I said the parent company brands, which are the same plans are more expensive.

  • Tim

    competition for what, to see who can be the first to raise rates?

  • Andrew_notPorC

    Why the fixation of ARPU? If ARPU fell because of BYOD, this is probably a good thing, since device subsidies must be an enormous cash drain, and discounts for BYOD are minimal, so BYOD subscribers are likelier higher margin, all else equal.

    • Delphus

      Unfortunately, the market analysts follow ARPU and stock prices reflect this, so ARPU is king

    • Skin Blues

      Device subsidies also flood the market with phones locked to Rogers. So, you either need to keep using Rogers, sell it to somebody else who needs to keep using Rogers, or pay Rogers $50 for the right to use the phone on another carrier.

    • Canucksftw

      Or I dunno…pay 15-20 bucks to get it unlocked online. You know like thousands of people do..so yeah not so hard..well.maybe for some..lol here’s a tip…google

  • m-p{3}

    “It was the most fiercely competitive quarter probably in the history of Canadian mobile!”

    *raise prices*

  • will

    I guess CRTC is wrong…… competition raises prices….

    • hardy83

      The CPC was going on about that as well.
      Most of us believe that more competition lowers prices, but hey, I guess we can’t always be right.

  • El Capitan Morgan

    They are competing who raise the prices first.

  • Russell Porter

    There is no competition between the Big three at all.

    It probably went like this. Bell, Telus and Rogers CEO sitting in a boardroom asking each other how they can screw over Canadians this year. Rogers CEO says, how about we all remove BYOD discount and then I will raise our plan prices and you two follow. Dollar signs in their eyes.

    • Theo

      Actually it was Bell who made the first move this time :p

  • Jack Lee

    don’t care, lower prices already.

  • Omis

    They are competing they are just doing it quietly behind closed doors so not too many people know about it. I mean Telus just offered me unlimited nationwide talk and text and 5gb data for $70. Which is pretty good for a big 3 company, considering I’m in ontario. Or I could with bell $60 250 minute local talk and 5gb data. These are non corporate plans and a hell of a lot better than deals they are offering on their websites. If you stay quiet and accept their prices, you are pretty much subsidizing the discounts for people that complain.

    • Ben S

      yup, i find that knowing how retail and other industries work behind the scenes, so to speak, helps in getting to the right person and finding out about those unadvertised plans and promos. i’ve been with rogers for about ten years because retention doesn’t want to lose our internet, wireless and home monitoring again. and we pay our bills on time, tho not sure how much that has to do with it 🙂

  • h2oflyer

    In this mornings Globe, Mr Laurence says that using a mobile phone is cheaper than a cup of coffee.

    He says it costs $2.43 a day ($74 month) to use a phone, which is cheaper than his morning $3.62 latte.

    He has the option of a $1.70 medium at Timmy’s. He and his competitive buddys are removing our options.

    • awhite2600

      Let’s see… I make my morning coffee at home. I estimate that it costs me about 30¢ a day. So at that rate I should be entitled to a phone plan for $9.00 per month. Where can I sign up?

    • h2oflyer

      Too many CEO’S in the past have used that cup of coffee analogy. For what they get paid, I thought they were supposed to be smarter.

    • cartfan88

      What I hear that cup of coffee excuse..particularly for price increases and increases in taxes I’d like to vomit.

      “Hey let’s dumb it down for the average consumer. They’re so dumb they will say yeah that is cheap.” CEO handbook

    • Abel

      I don’t drink coffee! LOL

  • danbob333

    Well I have to agree it was a competitive quarter, with the $34 Canada unlimited + 2 GB plan being offered by all sub-brands of the big 3 in Quebec. I do not expect such a deal to happen again any time soon.

  • Trevor

    Are you sure it was an ‘earnings call’? Seems more like a reading of fairy tale.

  • hoo dat

    So wait, blended ARPU dropped by $0.70 per month on BYOD accounts so they raise the price $5? How is that competitive?

  • Lulzon

    “you have no idea how hard it is to price fix”

  • Ben S

    well, we’re all too stupid to do the math ourselves, i suppose.
    the Canadian wireless market is ANYTHING but competitive.

  • hardy83

    Usuaually the claim of a quarter being competitive doesn’t include the fact that prices went up and plans that benefited consumers went away.

    Though I suppose if it meant competitive in a anti-consumer way. That it was hard to compete in besting the competition with ways to make more money and remove plans/bonuses that hurt the bottom line then yea. He’s right.

  • Matt

    All of the price raises have happened in Q1 2016. This is for Q4 2015. As I remember there where quite a few discounts floating around, especially during Black Friday.

  • Breeze

    If the price increase can be coordinated so seamlessly, how can the market be competitive? This guy is a pure liar!!!

  • disqus_vPnVddwEMi

    One note: when he says competition he’s not referring to mass market service pricing changes. Competition in this case: greater volume of un-contracted (on BYOD plans) & greater spend on retention (device discounts & unadvertised plans). Basically carriers are having to spend more to retain their customers as they are more able to switch.

    That folks, is competition.

  • Longtin

    Yeah I also agree that this is not good news for consumers. Eliminating the BYOD benefits and the mid tier options used to be 50$ now it’s $70 minimum. Crazy.

  • Elton Bello

    Competition???? In Canada? No way jose, what have u been smoking?

  • h2oflyer

    Car leases are coming down because of real competition. Mobile plans are going up because of difficult competition.

    Any guesses on how long before they meet?

  • Ipse

    I’m really concerned that in 2016 all these greedy bastards will start touching grandfathered plans as they drag the ARPU down….
    Hope I’m wrong.

    But yeah….ridounculous statement….” fierce ” my a$$

  • Christian

    When we going to see real competition? Prices aren’t competitive

  • disqus_WT

    I signed up for roam like home. But I don’t actually use it