Freedom Mobile President slams carrier Family Share plans, talks data overages and the Shaw arsenal

'The construct of Family Plans is starting to fracture in this country'

Freedom Mobile ushered in a new wave of competition for data-hungry Canadian customers when the carrier unveiled its ‘Big Gig’ data plan in late 2017.

One of the reasons Freedom launched its 10GB for $50 offering was because the carrier saw customers increasingly using more data than talk and text. In a recent round table interview with MobileSyrup, Paul McAleese, president of wireless at Shaw Communications, stated that the “Mobile Generation (Generation M)” is exceedingly connected and wants to live a “mobile life from the moment they wake up to the time they go to bed.”

“We spend an enormous amount of time talking with customers.”

Soon after the launch of the Big Gig, most Canadian wireless carriers started offering a similar 10GB offering, with specific stipulations, though customer service departments weren’t able to handle the influx of demand for the sought-after plans.

“We spend an enormous amount of time talking with customers. In the field, online, or any of our contact points, to make sure that the voice of the customer resonates with everything we do. That is what constructed Big Gig back in October and it’s constructing the next wave,” said McAleese.

Competitor ‘Family Share’ plans are “starting to fracture”

Freedom announced today that Canadian-born actor Will Arnett will be the face of the carrier’s new marketing campaign, giving Freedom a much-needed new look and feel that’s dramatically better than its Freddy the Freedom Bear campaign from 2017.

McAleese spent time discussing data packages, honing in specifically on how Freedom’s competitors are structuring ‘Family Plans.’

“The construct of Family Plans is starting to fracture in this country, much like it did in the United States. Family plans were originally designed to increase the number of lines and enhance retention. The challenge with this model is that it puts the customer in a fighting position with each other in terms of data. Then you’re put into a situation to learn who the worst offender is. It turns into a constant battle. Every month you are dealing with significant overages on your bill. We want to solve for Canadians this ongoing stress that resides within their households,” said McAleese.

Data overage charges in Canada range from $70 to $100 per GB. According to the latest CRTC Communications Monitoring Report, Canadian wireless carriers reported $1.2 billion in revenue from data overage charges in 2016.

“Canadians are still dissatisfied with what they pay for data. The data overage charges in this country are astonishing. I’m surprised there is not more of a revolt on that. The Canadian consumer, perhaps because they don’t know of any other options, know they are paying up to $100 per GB,” said McAleese.

‘Unlimited’ data plans but heavily throttled

McAleese said that Freedom Mobile will never charge customers for data overages, but he was also careful not to label the carrier’s plans as ‘unlimited’ — mainly because Freedom throttles from LTE to 3G speeds when customers hit a specific data cap.

“I think we are cautious around ‘unlimited’ because we do throttle. Maybe taking a bit of a diversion from what the American carriers do where most of them do 20GB to 25GB data and then throttle. We felt it was the more conservative and practical approach not to use that. We throttle data but still highly usable and you are not really seeing a major reduction in quality but we think it’s important to distinguish,” said McAleese.

“I think we are cautious around ‘unlimited’ because we do throttle.”

“Our customers get notified at various stages along the way. I believe 75, 90 and 100 percent of their data allotment. The customer then has the ability to buy more high-speed data, or ignore that and get throttled down, which is 128/256 kbps.”

What about a premium wireless brand called Shaw Wireless or bundling Shaw services?

Back in September, several Canadian trademarks filed by Shaw suggested the company planned to launch a “Shaw Mobile,” “Shaw Mobility,” or possibly “Shaw Wireless” brand.

When asked about the possibility of Freedom utilizing the Shaw brand, McAleese emphasized the carrier’s “standalone success.”

“We are really fortunate to have the heritage that we have with Shaw. With that heritage comes three or four significant blessings that we could deploy. The Shaw brand is first and foremost, along with its customer relationships, is something that we have not tapped into at all. Any success that you’ve seen us have over the last number of quarters is a standalone Freedom success, rather than something that’s been built off the back of Shaw’s accomplishments,” said McAleese.

“We have within our arsenal the ability to use the Shaw name and distribution channel, the ability to sell into the Shaw base. Those things remain in our portfolio. When we choose to use them we will probably be simply a matter of when we feel the need for them. At this point we like our growth rate and we are hugely flattered by the impressions we are seeing. Canadian consumers are certainly loving what they are getting from Freedom. If we think [a new brand] can be needed then we will proceed with it but it’s not imminent for us.”

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. 

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