While Canadian smartphone users consume more data and make more calls and texts than ever before, wireless carriers are now beginning to feel the heat. According to the J.D. Power 2016 Canadian Wireless Network Quality Study, the total incidences or issues faced by consumers while consuming data or using apps and browsers on their handsets have sharply increased compared to last year's figures. However, the average number of incidents on areas like calls and texts have remained stable since last year. On an average, data-consuming activities like video chatting, location sharing and mobile payments have risen from 14%, 10% and 14% respectively in 2015 to 18%, 14% and 19% respectively this year. With increasingly capable smartphones and fast 4G services available, consumers are using wireless data with increasing regularity and pace, a phenomenon to which wireless carriers are struggling to adapt.
Among Canadian wireless carriers, incidents are calculated on the basis of problems per 100 (PP100) which implies that lesser the count, the better is the nature of service provided. From last year to this year, overall network problems have risen from 9PP100 to 10PP100 which has let to data problems worsening from 14PP100 to 15PP100. At the same time, increased use of websites has also contributed to the problem. While those visiting 5-9 websites in the last 48 hours experienced 13 data PP100, those visiting 10 to 14 websites in the same period suffered 17 data PP100. “The storage capacity and processing power of new devices provides consumers with an abundance of available apps prompting a rapidly rising consumption of data. This is placing a great deal of stress on network performance. Despite carrier infrastructure upgrades and claims of faster speeds, consumer perception is compromised when they experience disruptions and delays,” said Adrian Chung, director at J.D. Power. The study also found that those with unlimited data in their SIM contracts suffered more incidents compared to those who had limited data and that consumers who have suffered higher network problems have indicated that they will definitely switch carriers compared to those who didn't face as many incidents.
Paradoxically, the Canadian Commissioner For Complaints For Telecommunications Services (CCTS) revealed in March that overall customer complaints had gone down from 5,468 in 2015 to 4,562 in 2016. Among such complaints, billing issues took the top spot followed by local and long distance telephone issues, wireless services and internet access. In a study conducted by J.D. Power last year, it came to light that wireless prices rose by 4-8% overall compared to the previous year, making Canada one of the most expensive countries in the category. The study found that wireless services offered by traditional carriers like Bell, TELUS and Rogers cost far more than those offered by new entrants like WIND Mobile, Mobilicity and Videotron. Given that large carriers have to make huge investments in infrastructure in order to cope with the increasing demand, they are probably not as inclined to reduce costs of their services compared to start-up carriers who can lease existing lines at current rates.