CRTC takes steps to make lower-cost data-only wireless plans available

The CRTC has announced that Bell, Rogers and Telus will offer data-only wireless plans for as low as $15/month, as part of the regulator’s effort to make lower-cost data-only wireless plans more widely available to Canadians.

The plans, which will come into effect within the next 90 days, will range from as low as $15 for 250 MB to $30 for 1GB of monthly data, with a mix of prepaid and postpaid options, on both 3G and LTE networks. The commission stopped short of setting a maximum price like it did for basic TV service, back in 2016.

Today’s announcement follows a public process launched in March that saw the national wireless providers ordered to come back with low-cost proposals not once, but twice, after the CRTC still found the first-round of proposed options too expensive.

“Canadians deserve to have access to a wide range of mobile wireless plans in the market. While the new lower-cost data-only plans represent a step in the right direction and provide more choice for Canadians, we remain concerned by the overall condition of the market. To this end, the review we will launch next year will look at the state of mobile wireless competition more broadly,” said CRTC chair and CEO Ian Scott, in a press release.

Scott was echoing the tone of today’s decision, which states that “even with these new lower-cost choices for Canadians, the Commission considers that there is more work to be done to further improve competition, reduce barriers to entry, and address any concerns about affordability and service adoption in the broader mobile wireless service market. The Commission intends to assess such issues in its upcoming review of mobile wireless services.”

The CRTC says it will monitor the implementation and availability of the plans over the coming months to ensure the wireless providers are honouring their commitments. The commission has directed Bell Mobility, Rogers and Telus to report back to the CRTC every six months with information about their data-only wireless plans, including demand and marketing efforts. It’s also encouraging carriers “to continue to improve their offerings to respond to consumers’ needs and expectations.”

According to multiple studies, Canadians pay among the highest wireless prices in the developed world. However some groups, like the Montreal Economic Institute argue the country’s geographical barriers and telco investment need to be considered.

The commission says through its review of mobile wireless services in early 2019, it will examine whether further action is required to improve the choice and affordability of mobile wireless services for Canadians, among other issues. The CRTC expects the national low-cost wireless plans to remain in place until the end of the wireless review.

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