After the CRTC banned exclusivity clauses in domestic roaming agreements, WIND Mobile has added yet another partner, TELUS, to grow its potential network base throughout Canada.
According to an internal company document, WIND “has taken another leap in advancing and improving its service throughout Canada by adding another domestic partner network.” The company says its WIND Away coverage has expanded by 14% across the country and 40% in British Columbia, TELUS’s home province, building on top of the new entrant’s existing agreements with Bell and Rogers.
Most new entrants don’t usually disclose roaming partners, preferring to mask the networks their customers are connected to in favour of euphemistic labels like ‘Away Zone’. For many years, Rogers was WIND’s only partner, offering per-minute and per-SMS phone and text rates along with high costs for slow 2G data. Earlier this year, when exclusivity clauses became illegal — Canada’s regulatory body calling out Rogers explicitly — WIND partnered with Bell to expand its physical roaming area and renegotiate its call, text and data rates. While the company is not yet offering unlimited 3G packages, roaming rates have dropped to an more-palatable $25/500MB, the same Rogers charges its prepaid customers. The Canadian government previously made it illegal for incumbents to charge new entrants more for roaming than they do their own customers.
As a result of WIND’s re-capitalization, CEO change and renewed stability in light of its newfound independence, the company has been advertising itself as a truly national network. It recently launched a $44 Cross-Canada plan that offers unlimited Canada/US talk and global texts, along with unlimited Home data and $10 monthly credits towards roaming.
In September, the CRTC held a consultation to ascertain whether it should regulate domestic roaming rates. New entrants like WIND, Mobility and Eastlink are in favour of the procedure, which would allow them, should the rates be low enough, to run truly “national” networks at prices competitive with the incumbents. Rogers, Bell and TELUS believe that regulating those rates will force them to cut down on investment in rural areas. Regional carriers like SaskTel and MTS are worried that such regulations would cut into their own revenues, as they would be disadvantaged by being forced to offer larger national significantly lower rates to roam on their networks than they do today.
WIND now boasts coverage of 97% of the Canadian population with its new partner, and while rates haven’t declined with TELUS’s addition, they’re a lot more reasonable than they used to be.