As Rogers’ new Infinite unlimited data plans roll out today, the president of wireless services at the carrier says this move benefits subscribers and says Rogers will see a growth in subscriber metrics.
“When you do the right thing for customers, the business results tend to follow. I won’t comment on specific metrics or how far we will improve, but if you believe in that relationship, which we do, I think we’ll see better business and subscriber metrics moving forward,” Brent Johnston said in an interview.
The national carrier added 23,000 new wireless postpaid subscribers in its first quarter of 2019 and also had its best churn rate of 0.99 percent.
Taking a page from U.S. carriers and Shaw’s Freedom Mobile, the national carrier started offering its unlimited data plans with no overage charges on June 13th.
The three plans start at $75 for 10GB of data, $95 for 20GB of data and $125 for 50GB of data, all at max speeds. Johnston confirmed that all plans will include unlimited Canada-wide calling, texting, picture and video messaging.
“Today is the data story, but we are certainly following through with [those services],” he said.
Johnston also noted that other subsidized plans like its Premium, Premium+, and Ultra cellphone data plans will not be removed.
“You can buy those stand alone where you can bring your own device, or you can have them with subsidized devices and what you are representing, the Premium, Premium+, and Ultra subsidy offerings, will continue to exist on top of this new suite of service rate plans,” Johnston said.
Looking at customer needs and preparing for 5G and beyond
These plans come a few months after the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) launched a review on “the state” of the mobile wireless market and “whether further action is required to improve choice and affordability for Canadians.” The hearing will take place in January 2020.
More importantly for Rogers though, as Johnston said, is to be ready for when 5G networks are made available in Canada.
“We are on the cusp of what I would call the 4G/5G era where networks are going to continue to become more capable, devices are becoming ever more powerful and consumers’ demands and needs are continuing to escalate,” Johnston said. “We think this is the perfect time to make the transition as we sit on the doorstep of 5G to enable customers to take full advantage of that smartphone in their pocket.”
Canada doesn’t have all the spectrum necessary to fully deploy 5G networks. Innovation, Science and Economic Development Minister Navdeep Bains recently put forward changes to the 3500MHz spectrum auction and announced auctions for 2021 and 2022 for spectrum that will deliver 5G.
Carriers also acquired the 600MHz spectrum band earlier this year that will also help deliver 5G.
Johnston said that despite not having all the spectrum yet, Rogers “wants to be in the front and not lagging.”
“Even though 5G is a little bit down the track, devices are coming soon, network capabilities are going to improve in advance of 5G,” he said.
Telus, Bell try to compete
Rogers isn’t the first carrier in Canada to offer speed capped unlimited plans. Since late last year, Freedom has offered 100GB of bonus data to customers who subscribe to the carrier’s 10GB Big Gig data plan, which in itself is an unlimited plan, slowing speeds for users who pass the 10GB threshold.
Shortly after Rogers announced it was launching its new plans, Telus came out with a promotional offer that includes 10GB of data for $75 per month plus 5GB of bonus data for bring your own device customers.
The promotion will last until July 2nd and the 5GB of bonus data will end after two years.
In response to the promotional Telus’ plan, Johnston said that Canada has a very competitive market but that Rogers will always focus on its customers.
“We are always trying to serve them the best that we can in a competitive market that leads to better things,” he said.
On June 13th, Bell announced its version of unlimited data plans. It will offer 10GB of data for $75 per month and will also throttle data at 256Kbps after people go over data. The promotional offer will end on June 30th.
Rogers will reduce speeds to protect networks
Shortly after the news was announced, many were quick to point out that after a user goes over their data, Rogers will reduce speeds to 256Kbps, or essentially 3G.
It’s worth noting that what actually constitutes 3G speed is up for debate. Generally, speeds of 200Kbps or higher are considered 3G, although according to PC Mag, 3G can range from 144Kbps to 400Kbps or higher depending on the 3G technology in use. Further, the International Telecoms Union (ITU), which set the IMT-2000 standard for 3G, defines it as a minimum speed of 2Mbps when walking and 348Kbps when in a vehicle.
But Johnston said that the average user on a Canadian wireless network uses about 3GB of data per month and is confident that users that have the 10GB data plan will not go over.
“We know and we believe that 10GB of full speed data will be a very large amount of data, we are confident in that,” he said. “At the same time we enjoy some of the fastest networks on the planet and some rankings as high as second behind Norway. We need to protect those networks and many jurisdictions have similar regimes where after a certain volume of usage, speed is reduced. And that is to protect the network while enabling a great network experience.”
Rogers says that customers are able to pool data with family members and if they go over, they can buy a ‘Speed Pass’ to add 3GB of data for $15 CAD.
Update 06/14/2019: Updated the article to clarify the speeds of a 3G data connection.