SaskTel's Chief Exec Ron Styles Talks About 2014 and Beyond

Our source was able to sit down with Ron Styles, chief executive of SaskTel, and discuss the state of wireless carriers in Canada and some of the disparities or pricing policies of Rogers and TELUS.  When compared to national providers like Rogers and Bell, SaskTel seems relatively small - they posted revenues of only $320 million in Q3 2014, which is like one-tenth of the larger players.  It also operates on a much smaller profit margin than a Rogers or Bell...its expenses in 2014 were 90-percent of its revenue.  Due to the nature of its network, it has very few smartphones and still has about 100,000 CDMA mobile phones.

While SaskTel is relatively small in comparison to a Rogers, they are not a small company.  They operate a 4G LTE network, jointly with Bell, and have a huge copper footprint and recently began offering fiber.  They operate a high-speed internet and provide television packages, home phone services and are bringing TTD-LTE to rural customers - a technology found nowhere else in North is used over in Asia.

They do all of this at prices that undercuts the incumbents, which brings us to one of Styles' complaints: "I'm concerned with the differential that currently exists between provinces.  The price difference between a [carrier] store on the western border of Saskatchewan and the east side of Alberta is between 30 and 50 percent.  Why is that?  I think the CRTC needs to examine why TELUS and Rogers are allowed to do that."

For instance, the pricing Rogers uses in Saskatchewan is very different in other provinces.  Rogers offers three wireless share plans in Saskatchewan - the most expensive plan offers 10 times the amount of data that Rogers offers in Ontario!  In order to compete against SaskTel and MTS, Rogers must up their ante.  But what does that say about the prices Rogers is charging the rest of the territories.

Styles pointed out how the decisions the CRTC makes can affect a smaller company, such as SaskTel.  When the CRTC made it mandatory for all carriers to roam at reasonable rates, SaskTel lost around 90-percent of their roaming revenue - it gave the much richer companies, like Rogers, the ability to use their network to roam for next to nothing.  SaskTel and MTS appealed to the CRTC for an exception, to no avail.

SaskTel intends to grow its wireless business and they intend on testing out Voice over LTE (VoLTE) in 2016 and rollout Advanced LTE during the same timeframe.  Canadians are lucky that the Big Three do not have a grip in provinces like Manitoba and Saskatchewan - though not as large or advanced, they still offer true value in wireless services.

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