MANU FERNANDEZ/AP PHOTO
The wireless war between Rogers and Bell is heating up as the two companies have sweetened their cellphone service bundles.
Deals unveiled as number portability nears
Mar 01, 2007 04:30 AM
The countdown to wireless number portability has officially begun.
BCE Inc. unit Bell Canada yesterday made its first move to hang on to customers who on March 14 will be able to leave the company in search of better rates without changing their cellphone number.
Bell Mobility introduced its new set of rates, called Bell to Bell calling plans, that allow unlimited local calls between Bell mobile phones and residential and business lines.
Bell’s move comes two days after Rogers Communications Inc. introduced its My Home Connections plan that allows Rogers home-phone subscribers to make free long-distance calls within Canada to other Rogers wireless, landline and Fido numbers.
Analysts said these are the first of many incentives that will be rolled out by wireless providers this year.
In light of wireless number portability, “we can expect a lot of these bundle initiatives in wireless,” said Lawrence Surtees, a telecom analyst with IDC Canada.
“Providers will compete in offering new plans to give you a bunch more minutes for calling or call people for free as a … way of competing without engaging in a suicidal price competition war.”
It may seem to consumers that they are saving money, but it’s not the same as a company slashing prices, he added.
While the Rogers home phone plan starts at $21.95, Bell is offering a three-tier price package. Unlimited calls between Bell cellphones, and between residential phones, will cost $10 a month, whereas unlimited business calls will cost $20 a month. Unlimited calls between any of the above three options will cost $35 a month. Text messaging and long distance are extra charges.
“It eliminates to a great extent any inhibitions you might have had about making calls,” said Wade Oosterman, president of Bell Mobility. “It is a profound and fundamental shift in the way people will use their devices and that changes the architecture of billing of calls.”
Oosterman added that the new rate announcements had nothing to do with upcoming number portability.
“You can only look at experiences in other parts of the world…in some markets it was absolutely meaningless, but in the U.S., there was an initial flurry and now it’s become a non-event,” he said.
But Surtees argued that a number of wireless family plans and unlimited calling plans were similarly introduced in the U.S. in 2003, when the country adopted wireless number portability.
“We can expect to see a proliferation of a lot more over this year because there’s a lot more they can do,” he said. “A lot more aggressive plans are in place in the U.S. and ones that Canadian wireless providers are likely to emulate.”
Kevin Restivo, a telecom analyst with SeaBoard Group, said that such new initiatives would help Bell retain customers, after losing a number of them a few years ago due to billing problems. Service providers in Canada are offering bigger bundles that help them retain their customers so they may in turn subscribe to more than one of their services, he added.
With North America the only continent that charges for incoming calls, the elimination of the charge by Bell is worth noting, Surtees said.
“Canadian consumers have loathed it. The one thing we hate is paying for incoming calls.”