Sugar Mobile picks a fight with Rogers over roaming agreements [Update – now Bell, too]

Rob Attrell

February 16, 2016 8:53pm

The wireless landscape in Canada is evolving quickly and where it ends up now isn’t exactly clear.

At the end of December, we profiled Sugar Mobile, a company offering hybrid cellular/Wi-Fi plans to Canadians for only $19 a month. The plans rely on connections to Rogers, Bell and Telus when users aren’t connected to WiFi, and uses partner network Ice Wireless in Northern Canada.

Now, Sugar Mobile alleges Rogers plans to block the hybrid MVNO’s ability to roam on its network, according to a complaint filed with the CRTC this week. Sugar says the move by Rogers is an attempt to block competition and other carriers will quickly follow suit, effectively sinking the fledgling carrier.


Samer Bishay, president of Sugar Mobile and Ice Wireless said, “we’re trying to innovate and give consumer choice – we’re trying to do everything that policy was set to do.” Bishay also notes Rogers is “using regulatory or legal manoeuvring to really just block competition.”

Rogers responded to the complaint, with spokesperson Aaron Lazarus saying the company “welcomes all fair competition,” and states it doesn’t currently have a roaming agreement with Sugar Mobile. Lazarus added Rogers’ relationship with Ice Wireless is valued and that the company has backup plans in place in the event the dispute causes Northern travellers to lose Ice Wireless’ coverage.

Sugar Mobile has requested the CRTC prevent Rogers from cutting off service, and the CRTC agreed Rogers should maintain its roaming agreement with Ice Wireless, at least until the commission can issue a ruling.

Update: Bell has now voiced concern over the business practices of Ice Wireless’ sister company Sugar Mobile. According to the Globe, Bell, who filed an intervention with to Ice Wireless’ request to the CRTC, is siding with Rogers and states this move “will almost certainly have an impact” on its own roaming services.

In addition, Rogers followed up from its original filing and continues to take issue with Ice re-selling its roaming access outside of its licensed territory, noting, “these customers are clearly not roaming and have no right to use Rogers. The commission ought not to sanction this type of activity by way of interim relief.”

Related reading: Sugar Mobile uses old tricks to challenge the Canadian telco status quo

  • deltatux

    and was anyone surprised?

  • TomsDisqusted

    Wow, and Sugar isn’t a real MVNO – those aren’t allowed in Canada – so it really doesn’t pose much of a threat to anyone.

  • southerndinner

    A real MVNO would be a start

  • heynow00

    (Rogers) ‘states it doesn’t currently have a roaming agreement with Sugar Mobile’

    Am I missing something in this article? If sugar mobile doesn’t have an agreement to roam on Rogers network, what are they complaining about?

    • Mike

      Sugar doesn’t really have an agreement with Ice, it’s more like Ice owns Sugar much the same way Bell owns Virgin. If bell has a roaming agreement, Virgin can certainly also take advantage of that, the same way Sugar should be allowed to.

  • islander

    so this company wants all the benefits of a national LTE system but they shouldnt have to pay a fair price? WTF

    • hoo dat

      No-one said anything about LTE. For $19 p/m I would think you’d get 3G max.

    • Tony Duarte

      They do. In fact they OVERPAYING for the privilege of roaming on Rogers. If u look at most countries, roaming dirt cheap, unlike here, where roaming bits are priced like gold nuggets.

  • Ricky Bobby

    Look at that, a company trying to innovate and Robellus goes in for the kill.

  • CrazyFish

    “welcomes all fair competition,” as long as that means one of the big 3 and competing to raise prices the fastest…

  • Big Daddy Cool

    Sugar isn’t utilizing “fair competition” practices. You’re using their network and not only undercutting it, but devaluing the network. Rogers is going to win this one.

  • gueststar

    sugar seems like pretty crappy anyways. 200mb for $19 and you get a voip program.. might aswell get fidos 5gb for 35 dollars and download fongo 25x more data for less then half the cost.

  • fruvous

    Samer Bishay, president of Sugar Mobile and Ice Wireless.

    You forgot recently embattled Iristel.

  • NotARogersEmployee

    Honest question, what innovation is Samer Bashay referring to in the above? Are they really doing anything innovative or simply offering an affordable price?

  • gommer strike

    The Sugar mobile app isn’t very good. Apparently the app has issues with notification alerts, causing you to possibly miss them.

    Get what you pay for.