07/05/2013 01:53 EDT | Updated 11/13/2013 08:27 EST

Wireless Prices Report Finds Consumer Bills Shrinking, But Data Costs Still Out Of Control


Canada continues to be among the worst countries for using data on your cellphone, but overall wireless prices are coming down, a new study finds.

Wireless prices on average fell by 11 per cent for low-use subscribers, 13 per cent for average-use wireless plans, and five per cent for heavy users since last year, according to the 2013 Wall Communications report, carried out for Industry Canada and the CRTC.

The study found Canada’s small wireless players — Mobilicity, Public Mobile and Wind Mobile — were between 14 per cent and 39 per cent less expensive than the big telecoms, depending on the level of service.

“Further, the monthly data allowances offered by the new wireless entrants, on average, exceed those of the incumbents,” the report said.

The study stands in stark contrast to some other research. A report from J.D. Power & Associates this past May found that Canadians have seen their wireless bills jump 13 per cent, on average, in the past year.

The Wall Communications report found that, when it came to data, the difference between the large and small players was even greater: For data plans of 2 GB per month, the small carriers were 30 per cent less expensive than the large telecoms, and for data plans of 5 GB per month, the small players were a full 41 per cent less expensive.

The report said wireless prices have been coming down for the past five years — the same period of time for which the small wireless companies have been operating.

It compared prices for wireless in Canada with five other major markets — the U.S., Australia, Britain, France and Japan — and found Canada not to be the worst, but by no means the best either.

Canada had the second-highest wireless prices for low-use plans and average-use plans, and the third-highest prices of the six countries for heavy-use plans.

On data plans, Canada ranked “on the high side” for 2 GB data plans, and had the highest data rates of the six surveyed countries for 5 GB of data per month.

The survey also looked at prices for broadband internet, and found Canada had the second-highest costs for high-speed plans, behind only the U.S., but “compared favourably” when it came to lighter internet plans, with prices very similar to the other countries surveyed.

Internet prices in Canada came down as well, between one per cent and 12 per cent depending on the level of service, the report said.

In a press release Thursday, Industry Minister Christian Paradis argued government policy had a hand in falling telecom prices.

The report “demonstrates that the Harper Government's action to increase wireless competition is delivering lower prices and more choice for Canadian families,” Paradis said in the statement.

Paradis added the “Harper Government will not let this progress be lost or undermined. We will continue. We will not hesitate to use any and every tool at our disposal to protect consumers and promote competition in every region of the country."

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