Rogers launches wi-fi smartphone services for business, but is it worth the cost?

Rogers Communications is launching Canada’s first wi-fi voice service for smartphones designed to help businesses by letting employees place calls over wi-fi networks registered on their smartphones.

“Business owners are constantly battling to try and reign in costs,” says Jon Arnold, industry analyst, J. Arnold & Associates. “Wi-Fi calling is a smart and simple way to make your business voice communications dollars work better for you.  It’s nice to see companies like Rogers thinking like a customer and bringing services like this to market.”

While wi-fi is free, this service is not. It starts at $10 for the basic addon (unlimited local calling) and $15 for the enhanced addon (unlimited Canadian calling). While perhaps not as seamlessly integrated as this service, Gmail and Skype are two examples of ways to make phone calls for free via wi-fi. Many people are apt to have difficulty justifying paying $10 to $15 per month for something that is free in virtually all contexts. Gordon Stein calls it a “competitive price,” but if it’s the first of its kind in Canada, and offering a service that is typically free, how can this be a true statement?

“Our business customers are telling us they need flexible connectivity that just works – no matter where they are. And they want it at a predictable, competitive price,” says Gordon Stein, vice president of business segment of Rogers Communications Inc. “With this service, business people can be confident that all of their calls will be clear as they move seamlessly from registered internal Wi-Fi systems to the Rogers 3G network. This combination of flexibility and cost certainty is a powerful advantage for growing businesses.”

MobileSyrup readers, for one, were rather unimpressed, calling it a “ridiculous monthly charge” and describing Rogers’ as “disgusting” for offering the service at this price. Perhaps there are circumstances where this is a viable and reasonably priced service, but they aren’t immediately evident.