Canadians pay some of the highest cell phone bills in the world. The federal government promised to reduce wireless bills by 25 percent to change this.
The government says the commitment, made in March 2020, has now been achieved three months ahead of schedule.
But just as we’ve seen in previous reports released by Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED), questions remain.
It’s important to point out this is the first and only quarter where all provinces have met the minimum 25 percent target through non-promotional plans. Before this, plans were only available on a promotional basis. It wasn’t until October 2021 that Koodo, Fido, and Virgin brought out ‘starter’ plans to meet government targets. It’s worth noting that these starter plans come with several restrictions, namely that they aren’t available to customers who also want to get a smartphone from a carrier.
The reductions have seen a $50/mo plan with 2GB of data drop to $37.50/mo, a $55/4GB option drop to $41.25/mo and a $60/6GB plan drop to $45/mo.
The government specifically required the ‘Big Three’ (Bell, Telus, and Rogers) to offer these reductions across their brands. What they didn’t require was for the three to offer the reductions themselves, which resulted in the carrier’s flanker brands (Virgin Plus, Koodo, and Fido respectively) offering plans that meet the government targets while the Big Three continue to offer plans starting at $80/mo.
While there is progress from each sub-brand, there’s no improvement to plans offered by the larger corporations that own them. Data shared with the public doesn’t include any numbers from the Big Three themselves.
The data reported by the ISED show similar figures across all provinces, except for Quebec.
Fido and Virgin deliver a 27 percent reduction on the 4GB data option. The report notes that both companies offered 4GB options that would meet the 25 percent threshold and the 27 percent threshold. The less expensive one is included in the report, hence the 27 percent reduction.
Data also shows carriers in the province have offered a 3GB service option on and off since October 2020. In some cases, it was promotional, but it appeared to be a part of their regular lists in most months.
Looking at this quarter only (October 2021 to December 2021), Virgin offered a $40/mo plan with 3GB of data in October and November that isn’t marked as a promotional offer. Fido offered a similar plan for the two months but lists it as promotional. Koodo only offers the plan through a promotion in October.
The quarterly report does not state if the companies met the 3G target because there was no benchmark number available to compare it to. It’s unclear why the government show 3G as an option if data is not available from carriers.
In a press release, the government says “wireless services are still too expensive” and promises to build on the changes we’ve seen so far. No specific details are included as to how and when this will be done.