Canada Still Leading Global Data Prices, Despite Competition Cutting Costs

Strong competition is lowering mobile wireless prices in certain Canadian regions, but the country still ranks among the most expensive in the world when it comes to the cost of mobile phone plans.

A new federal report prepared by Nordicity found that Canadians on average pay more than any other G7 nation for large mobile data plans.

The report also broke down the prices of telecom plans in six cities, ranking the costs for six service levels in Halifax, Montreal, Toronto, Winnipeg, Regina and Vancouver. While the report found prices for both low and mid-use wireless plans dropped, most of these plans are talk-and-text heavy, indicating that mobile data isn’t getting any cheaper.

“It is unacceptable that Canadians continue to pay ever-rising prices year after year for something as critical as mobile communications services,” said Katy Anderson, OpenMedia’s digital rights advocate in a statement. “Canadians simply can’t afford to keep paying the price for the lack of mobile competition.”

Although the big three—Bell, Telus and Rogers—dominate the national market, in cities with a regional operator wireless prices were on average 31 per cent lower than the national average, showing how even a localized option can drive competition.

“While progress is being made, the Government will continue to watch market dynamics and promote more competition so that all Canadians can have high-quality services at affordable prices,” the government said in the release.

One city has slashed the prices for mobile data nearly in half this past year. In Regina, where SaskTel competes with the national providers, users paying for 2 to 5 GB of data saw prices drop 47 per cent, while prices for 5 to 10 GB were down 52 per cent.

When it comes to mobile packages—talk, text and data—Vancouver and Halifax tend to pay the most in the country. A plan for unlimited minutes, unlimited SMS and 2 GB data is $37 dollars more in the coastal cities compared to Regina.

Although some cities are seeing more affordable plans, the government recognizes that a double-digit difference in cost depending on where you live in the country may seem unfair.

“We are pleased to see that prices for cellphone plans for many Canadians have declined. At the same time, we have heard concerns from many Canadians who said that prices are still too high. We remain focused on providing high-quality, affordable telecommunications services to all Canadians,” said Navdeep Bains, the federal economic development minister.

With all major providers in the United States now promoting unlimited data and smaller Canadian providers offering cheaper data plans, increasing competition in Canada will become even more important to make mobile services accessible.