A small telecom firm that’s offering a $19-a-month wireless plan says Rogers Communications is threatening its survival by cutting off its roaming agreement.
Users of Sugar Mobile could find themselves disconnected from the wireless network on Feb. 23, the company says, unless the federal telecom regulator, the CRTC, rules in favour of its request to stop Rogers from cutting off the roaming deal.
Rogers says it’s within its rights to cancel the deal because the discount wireless firm is violating the agreement’s terms.
Sugar Mobile launched in January, offering a $19-a-month wireless service with unlimited talk and text, and 200 mb of data.
What sets the service apart is that it uses an app that connects users to available WiFi networks, cutting down reliance on the big telcos’ wireless networks.
"Most people are in a Wi-Fi hotspot 85 to 90 per cent of the time," president and CEO Samer Bishay said, as quoted at the CBC.
It was an innovation some analysts predicted would offer wireless consumers more options and lower prices.
But when Sugar Mobile users aren’t on a WiFi network, they’re roaming on Rogers’ cellular network. Rogers is now planning to cut off those customers as of Feb. 23 of this year, Sugar Mobile said in a complaint filed with the CRTC.
It’s asking the CRTC to stop Rogers from disconnecting Sugar Mobile customers.
Sugar Mobile is owned by Ice Wireless, which offers wireless services in parts of the three northern territories and northern Quebec. It is this company that has a roaming agreement with Rogers.
If Rogers has its way, “both Ice Wireless’ and Sugar Mobile’s existence as viable businesses will be threatened,” the company said in the CRTC filing.
But Rogers says it has an agreement with Ice Wireless’ northern service — not Sugar Mobile.
“We value our relationship with Ice Wireless and hope these violations of our agreement will be resolved," Aaron Lazarus, senior director of public affair for Rogers, said in an email to CBC News.
"Rogers has never had an agreement of any kind with Sugar Mobile."
Sugar Mobile argues it’s all an attempt by Rogers to suppress competition.
“Rogers clearly feels threatened by the innovation and competition represented by Sugar Mobile, as it should. Canadians have been paying inflated prices for mobile wireless services for far too long,” the company said in its complaint.
Ten gigabytes of data with unlimited Canada-wide calling and unlimited messaging will run you $75 in Manitoba.
Meanwhile in Ontario, that same 10 gigs of data and unlimited calling and texting will cost you $145 — nearly double the cost in Manitoba.
Telus offers a plan in Manitoba that is just about the same as the Rogers plan mentioned above, and also costs $75.
That same Telus plan with 10 gigs of data will cost you $145 in Ontario. This the same pricing scheme, and the same difference between provinces, as Rogers offers.
In Manitoba, $55 will get you unlimited nationwide minutes and one gig of data.
...But in Ontario, $55 will get you 150 nationwide minutes and only 200 MB of data.
Fido offers unlimited Canada-wide calling and 5 gigs of data for $55, even making a point of highlighting the deal is only available in Manitoba and Saskatchewan.
In Ontario, you can't get five gigs of data and unlimited calling with Fido, but for $20 more per month than the five-gig deal in Manitoba, you can get two gigs and unlimited calling.
Koodo offers five gigs of data and unlimited minutes for $55 in Manitoba.
In Ontario, two gigs of data with unlimited calling will cost you $74, which is $19 more per month than five gigs and unlimited calling costs in Manitoba.
Virgin charges $105 for unlimited calling and three gigs of data in Manitoba.
In Ontario, three gigs of data and unlimited calling will run $105. That's the same as in Manitoba. Congrats, Virgin, on keeping that regional rift to a minimum!