BUSINESS

Eastlink Ends Roaming Fees Nationwide Amid Battle With Big Telcos

11/15/2013 01:36 EST
Tara Moore via Getty Images

Eastlink must be some sort of wireless Jedi — fighting for the little guy, against the Evil Empire of Big Telecom.

Or maybe that’s the image the Nova Scotia-based telco wants to project. Earlier this year the company became the first cable TV provider to allow customers to pick and choose channels, instead of buying channel bundles.

Now it has announced it’s eliminating roaming fees in Canada for its wireless customers.

"We don't want to be like every other carrier," Eastlink Wireless President Matthew MacLellan said in a statement. "Our goal is to be better — much better.”

Eastlink launched wireless services in Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island earlier this year, and is planning to go up against the Big Three wireless companies (Bell, Rogers and Telus) in the 700-mHz wireless spectrum auction next year. Whether it aims to become the “fourth major wireless player” that the Harper government is hoping to foster remains to be seen.

Story continues below slideshow

10 Ways To Avoid Roaming Charges

The company also offers cable TV and internet services in nine provinces, and has some 500,000 subscribers.

And Eastlink certainly hasn’t shied from picking fights with the telecom giants. It joined Wind Mobile and other small players earlier this year in pressuring the CRTC into regulating the “inflated roaming fees” the big players charge to small players for using their networks.

“Incumbents are left with substantial profit margins, in part because of commercially unreasonable wholesale roaming rates they collect, while new entrants who require profits to expand our network are left with only narrow gains for investment,” Eastlink told the CRTC, Canada’s telecom regulator.

The CRTC is in the midst of a review of roaming fees in Canada, and the Harper government vowed to tackle the issue in its recent Throne Speech, but Eastlink isn’t waiting for the telecom regulator or the government to move ahead with its own plans.

"Our culture is to listen and respond to our customers," Eastlink CEO Lee Bragg said. "They've told us that they want fewer plan restrictions, more choice and flexibility, and more transparency.”

With Eastlink’s move, a discernible trend away from roaming rates (or at least towards lower rates) is beginning to form.

Koodo Mobile, which is operated by Telus, already offers unlimited roaming within Canada for customers on its “Canada-wide" plans.

And Bell Mobility chopped its roaming rates for the U.S. in half this summer, amid fears within the industry Verizon would be coming to Canada.