The Canadian wireless business is interesting to say the least, mostly due to government intervention. For instance, Industry Canada and the CRTC (Canadian Radio-television Telecommunications Commission) announced plans to help "everyday Canadians" reduce the coat of their wireless roaming within Canada. We don't know about "within" Canada, but for those traveling south into the U.S., Wind Mobile, one of the smaller carriers in Canada, in an unprecedented move, has issued a challenge to the "big three" by offering travelers to the U.S. new, low-cost, unlimited roaming capabilities for only C$15 (US$13.42) a month. Wind also confirmed to mobilesyrup that this is strictly an add-on and can be done a month at a time, and canceled at anytime - almost seems too good to be true.
Wind's chief operating officer, Pietro Cordova, said in a statement: "While wireless prices in the Canadian marketplace remain very high, we at Wind Mobile continue to challenge expectations and offer our customers real value." Mirko Rugarli, CMO at WIND Mobile stated: "This new add-on gives customers the freedom to stay connected to their world while travelling. Consumers will be able to use their smartphone however they like, without limits: check maps if they get lost; update Facebook and Twitter; send photos of their trip; check the local weather - and all for only $15 a month. No more headaches, no more surprises."
Wind's move will undoubtedly have Rogers, Telus, and Bell lower their rates as well or coming up with their own unlimited plans, although there was no immediate comment from them. This will certainly eat into some of their profits, but analyst are dubious about whether it will actually lead to increased subscribers for Wind. The established carriers have their customers tied into bundle packages that include wireless, internet, TV, etc., that, and coupled with the fact that not many Canadians travel that often to the U.S.
Rogers, the largest Canadian carrier has a premium U.S. travel pack that gives users 500 minutes of talk-time, unlimited text messages, and 1GB of data for C$300 (US$268). Their cheapest U.S. travel pack is C$40 (US$36) and only allows 50 minutes of talk, unlimited texting, and 200MB of data. Telus's top U.S. package is C$65 (US$58) for 300 minutes, unlimited text messaging, and 300MB of data. Bell offers a C$30 (US$27) voice and text package with 100 minutes of talk and 1000 text messages and sells a separate data package for C$50 (US$45) for 500MB of data.
Wind, operated by Globalive, and backed by Europe's Vimpelcom Ltd, launched its service in 2009 and has over 650,000 customers, although still dwarfed by the other three that each have between 7 - 9.5 million customers. However, Wind said it was able to reach agreements with several major U.S. carriers to offer the deal, which was no doubt helped by Vimpelcom's scale with 220 million customers in 17 countries. This package will become available on February 3.