BUSINESS

Rogers extending roaming plan to Europe; daily rate to be double U.S. offering

04/10/2015 01:37 EDT | Updated 06/11/2015 07:59 EDT
TORONTO - Rogers Communications (TSX:RCI.B) hopes to corner the market on European travellers with a new roaming strategy that covers many countries in the region.

The telecom company unveiled plans Friday to launch a new flat-rate package that lets customers make phone calls, text and use data while they're travelling around 35 countries in Europe.

It's part of a rollout that Rogers tested last November when it launched its Roam Like Home plan in the United States.

"Roaming is becoming a battleground in the wireless market," chief executive Guy Laurence told reporters at a media conference.

Wireless carriers have faced many complaints from subscribers who say they've unknowingly driven up their wireless bill by hundreds, and sometimes even thousands, of dollars when they've used their data plans outside Canada.

Since Rogers launched the U.S. plan, it has signed up more than a million customers, Laurence said.

He estimates that Rogers customers are using five times as much data, on average, in the United States as they do at home, as they send pictures to their friends and post on social media platforms.

"Having broken this fear of roaming in the U.S., we're convince we'll break it in Europe," he added.

Like its U.S. plan, Rogers customers can opt into the program by texting the word "travel" to 222 before they leave or once they arrive in Europe to activate the discount, and will then be charged $10 per day to a maximum of $100 a month.

Roaming in the United States costs $5 per day to a maximum of $50 a month.

There are exceptions to the plan, which will be available starting next Wednesday, as not every European country is included in the new package.

The list of 15 ineligible countries includes Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Macedonia, Latvia, Kosovo, Belarus, Cyprus and others, according to documents provided by the company. Rogers estimates that less than one per cent of its customers travel to these countries.

Rogers has been searching for new ways to generate more revenue per wireless subscriber, as competition heats up with Bell and Telus, who are trying to attact a larger chunk of its subscribers.

During the fourth quarter, Rogers lost 58,000 postpaid subscribers, which surprised analysts who expected the company to make a net gain of 19,000.

Further pressure could be added in June when the CRTC's rule change over wireless contracts comes into effect.

The national wireless code shortens the span of wireless contracts to two years, which means that a wave of customers who were signed to older three-year contracts will suddenly be allowed to leave their agreements without paying a penalty fee.

Already, wireless companies have been trying to entice those customers to sign for a fresh two-year contract by offering special deals or free phones.

Rogers is scheduled to report its first-quarter financial results on April 20.

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