When TELUS, Canada's second largest carrier, bought Public Mobile and its 280,000 customers in November 2013, we knew there would be growing pains. There always are complications when two carriers merge operations, especially when there are two competing technologies involved – TELUS works on the more modern HSPA+ or LTE networks whereas Public was still on the antiquated CDMA network. It would make no sense for TELUS to try to maintain two completely different networks, let alone one that is no longer being used. Because of the difference in networks, the Public Mobile's devices are not compatible with their new TELUS network so the Public Mobile customers will be required to get a new mobile phone.
Because Public Mobile caters mostly to the low-income Canadians, who can least afford to purchase a new device, there has been a lot of public criticism from consumer groups and even Canada's Industry Minister James Moore. These consumers often opt for the ultra-cheap talk-and-text plans and one of the reasons that part of the purchase agreement was for TELUS to continue Public Mobile's low-cost $19 a month "unlimited talk" plan on TELUS's network until the end of 2014 – but what happens after that, TELUS is not saying.
Kevin Banderk, general manager of Public Mobile and the head of Telus's Koodo brand explains:
"For a large majority of the customers, this is actually an incredibly beneficial move. To move from where they are today and, generally speaking, keep the price points where they are today onto a network that is of the latest and greatest technology – much more reliable, much faster data speeds and national in scope – is actually a good thing. We understand that the transition is a bit tricky and we're doing everything we can to make that as easy as possible."
TELUS is offering these customers help with "significant discounts" on new cellphones and Public Mobile customers have the option to bring their own devices or a second-hand phone from a family member of a friend – provided they work on the TELUS network. The new customers will also receive the first month free and they are also exploring "different options" for customers in "special circumstances," although Mr. Banderk did not provide any details. He also said:
"Public Mobile was in financial distress when we purchased it. They were losing a significant amount of money every month in large part [due] to the technology decisions they had made early on and the network they chose. So, as part of the plan to sort of rectify this, we are moving customers from that old, very small regional legacy network to our new national 4G network."
John Lawford, executive director of the Public Interest Advocacy Centre, an Ottawa-based consumer group thinks it is a shame that these cost-conscious customers need to incur any cost and thinks that the Competition Bureau should have required TELUS to provide Public Mobile customers with a free cellphone. Wind Mobile CEO Anthony Lacavera said that they would be offering "promotions" to Public Mobile customers to "ease the pain" of the transition…not to mention pick up some of the new TELUS customers.
This type of buyout is never easy for transitioning customers, however, when it is over, they should be on a much better network that will provide better service…but at what price? Please let us know on our Google+ Page if you are a Public Mobile customer and how you feel about TELUS and the buyout.