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Public Mobile Tells Customers They All Need New Phones After Telus Buyout

If Public Mobile’s 220,000 customers haven’t yet noticed any impact from the company being bought out by telecom giant Telus, they will soon.

That’s because, as of May, they will all need to buy new phones, at a likely cost to each of them of at least $49.

Public Mobile customers are being switched over to Telus’ 4G network, and their existing phones—meant to work on Public Mobile’s outdated CDMA system—won’t work on the Telus network.

On the upside, customers “will immediately benefit from national coverage, faster wireless data speeds, and better phones,” a Public Mobile spokesperson told HuffPost Canada in an email.

The company also said existing customers will get “special pricing” on new phones, but as some online commenters have noticed, some of those special prices on offer at Public Mobile are more expensive than the same models on offer at parent company Telus.

In a notice to customers notifying them of the change, Public Mobile offers the Moto G smartphone for $250 without contract; at the Telus website, the phone is offered for $200 without contract.

Public Mobile operates in the Toronto and Montreal areas, and in parts of southern Ontario. Along with Mobilicity and Wind Mobile, it was one of the three upstart wireless companies to appear on the scene following the federal government’s loosening of telecom ownership rules in 2009.

All three companies have struggled to survive in a market dominated by three large players (Bell, Rogers and Telus). None of the three participated in the recent auction of 700 MHz spectrum, considered crucial for any wireless company hoping to be a major player going forward.

Mobilicity is under creditor protection, with the federal government last year rejecting a buyout bid from Telus, concerned that it would concentrate too much valuable spectrum in the hands of a dominant carrier. Mobilicity is reportedly reviewing bids from other potential buyers.

Wind Mobile is hanging in there, but its Dutch parent company, Vimpelcom, recently wrote off the entire value of its investment in Canada, indicating it doesn’t see the carrier ever turning a profit.

Telus bought Public Mobile last year. The discount carrier, known for its unlimited talk and text plans, has begun shifting to a price structure more similar to the ones seen at the big wireless companies, and hiked prices on its plans by $5 earlier this month.

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