Monday, July 25, 2005

Jul. 23, 2005. 01:00 AM

Cellphone rates costly: Report

Higher in Canada than U.S., Europe Situation worse for high-end users

TYLER HAMILTON
TECHNOLOGY REPORTER

Claims that cellphone services in Canada are amongst the cheapest in the world are more than grossly exaggerated — they're downright wrong, according to a comprehensive report on wireless pricing to be released Monday.

SeaBoard Group, a telecom consultancy based in Toronto and Montreal, has found that the average cellphone customer in Canada pays 60 per cent more than if they had the same plan in the United States, and 19 per cent more when compared to most European plans.

"Canadians pay a significant premium for the sound of Canadian wireless dial tone," according to an excerpt from the report, obtained by the Star. "Canadian carriers need to encourage their customers to use their phones — not penalize them for use."

The Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association would not comment directly on the report, but pointed to a 2004 New Zealand study that found Canadian cellphone prices cheaper than U.S. plans in two out of three pricing categories.

"I can't comment on something I haven't seen," said CWTA spokesperson Marc Choma.

Seaboard compared a range of different cellphone plans offered in four Canadian cities to three cities in the United States and three in Europe. Plans from at least three wireless operators were analyzed in each city. All prices were adjusted to reflect the purchasing power of relevant local currencies, and took phone features and special service fees into account.

The report found Canadian rates for pre-paid and occasional users were not much different, but high-end cellphone users were paying much more than those in the United States.

For example, the Star found one $59.99 (U.S.) plan from U.S. cellphone giant Cingular Wireless that offers free long-distance, free roaming across continental North America and 1,000 free weekend and evening minutes. No such plan is available in Canada, but to get all those features would cost more than $100 through local cellphone providers.

Additional articles by Tyler Hamilton

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