Bell’s renovating its house, and the first area to receive a new coat of paint is its plan lineup.
The company launched a new layout for its monthly price plans over the weekend, putting an end to its confusing mixture of individual Voice & Data plans along with shared data options, opting to go all-in on the latter.
Like Rogers and TELUS, Bell is now offering a unified lineup of shared data plans that combine a base price of $40-60 depending on the device and subsidy, and optional shared data add-ons beginning at $20 for 500MB, increasing to $105 for 15GB. Data is now optional, so users can choose to stick with a base voice plan with unlimited national calling, unlimited texting and Message Centre Lite without spending anything else.
Bell has broken down the option into Personal and Family shared plans, though, making it more enticing for individuals to share data between multiple devices — say a smartphone, tablet and data stick — for one monthly price. For example, adding a cellular-enabled tablet to the account costs just $10/month to share the data pool.
Unfortunately, this simplification came at a price to a large number of Canadians. According to Manitoba-based Ben Klass, an outspoken critic of many of the Big Threes’ policies, Bell has ramped up pricing in Manitoba and Saskatchewan to match those in the rest of Canada. Notably, most of the favourably-priced prairie plans have been nixed. Bell is now offering prairie customers the same more expensive shareable plans it offers throughout the rest of Canada. Yesterday, 10GB from Bell in Manitoba cost $75. Today it’s up to $145. Klass says that the move, which places Bell well above the prices of Rogers, MTS and SaskTel in their respective provinces, could be an acknowledgement that the carrier’s presence in the prairies is cost-prohibitive, and could be the first signs of packing up shop. Says Klass: “There are a lot of ins and outs, a lot of what have-yous, to this situation. However, given that Bell is mainly riding on Telus towers here, has little (if any) of its own infrastructure, and thereby its cost-to-revenue ratio has got to be favourable, one has to wonder whether there has been some sort of behind-closed-doors decision to vacate the area.” Unfortunate for many of Bell’s potential customers in the prairies, and certainly concerning if Rogers will follow suit, but the fact that there are regional LTE networks available in much of the country leads us to believe that smartphone customers in MB and SK will continue to be well-served.
Update: Bell has informed us that promotional non-shareable plans are still available in Manitoba and Saskatchewan. The prices above are for shared data plans only, and reflect the company’s desire to make those plans more prominent in every province.
It looks like they’re quite difficult to find on the Bell.ca page — I was not able to navigate to the promo plans until the link was provided — but they’re still available. Bell says it is working with the Bell.ca developers to make the plans more easily discoverable in the provinces they’re available, and did not mean to remove them completely from the site.