Competition Bureau proposes new policy to lower Canada’s expensive cell phone bills

By: Zandile Chiwanza on November 26, 2019

Phone bills in Canada are among the highest in the world and the Competition Bureau has an idea that could help lower the cost.  

Earlier this year reported it costs a Torontonian an average of $90/month for a 4GB data plan, along with unlimited local calling and unlimited text. That comes out to $1,080 a year. 

Canadians could save substantially on their cell phone bills if the big three – Bell, Rogers, and Telus – were faced with more competition from regional carriers like Freedom Mobile and Videotron, said the bureau in its press release

The bureau is asking that the CRTC pursue a Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) policy where the big three would have to sell temporary access to their wireless networks to regional carriers who intend to invest and further expand their own networks. It believes this policy will spur additional price competition in the short term while avoiding the risk of declining network quality in the long term.

MVNOs are a popular business model in the U.S. and Europe and are viewed by many here as a potential gamechanger to finally make cellphone plans affordable. While the CRTC has made proposals to increase competition and lower prices before, it has so far avoided recommending going the MVNO route. 

The bureau is an independent law enforcement agency that ensures that Canadian businesses and consumers prosper in a competitive and innovative marketplace. Its review, released on Nov. 25., was part of its efforts to help the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) with the scope of mobile wireless services in Canada. While there are promising signs of greater competition from wireless disruptors, the bureau found that many Canadians have not yet fully experienced those benefits.

The bureau reports that regions with wireless disruptors, prices can be 35 to 40% lower.

CRTC’s public hearing to review mobile wireless services in Canada begins on Feb. 18, 2020.