Canadian Unlimited Data plans are too expensive - what can we do about it?

Source: Wundle Mobile

Local alternative Wundle Mobile offers unlimited plan at low rate

Canada stands out in a number of ways. We invented hockey. We make the best maple syrup. We’ve got the world’s longest coastline. The list goes on…

One reputation that we could do without, however, is paying some of the highest prices in the world for mobile data.

Seriously, things are so bad that in the last federal election, multiple party leaders (including Trudeau) vowed to do something about the rising cost of mobile data plans.

What’s going on here?

Why do Canadians pay so much for unlimited data plans? And what can we do about it?

Just how expensive are Canadian data plans?

If you feel like you’re paying too much for data in Canada, you’re not just imagining things. The research backs it up. A 2019 study placed Canada 179th with respect to the average cost of 1GB of data compared to other countries. Last year, Canadians paid, on average, $12.02 USD per gigabyte of data, whereas the same product cost only:

  • $6.66 in the United Kingdom
  • $3.79 in Spain
  • $2.99 in France
  • $2.47 in Australia.

Even when it comes to our closest neighbour, the United States, we’re paying an average of 15%-40% more for our mobile plans.

But that’s not all. With their prohibitive cost, not that many Canadians are signed up for unlimited data plans. And with ‘pay for what you use’ agreements, overage charges plague many consumers as well.

Something’s gotta give.

The cost of doing business?

First, let’s acknowledge that Canadians are fortunate in that we enjoy the world’s second-fastest mobile networks, second only to Norway. That’s definitely a good thing, but does it justify the price tag? Not really.

So let’s dig a little deeper.

Any explanation of our sky-high mobile bills involves the fact that the Canadian mobile market is dominated by the “Big Three”: Bell, Rogers, and Telus.

Whenever these companies are challenged on the true cost of data, their response has something to do with Canada’s large size and low population density. In other words: our great sprawling nation is just too big, and it’s difficult — and expensive — to cover all of it.

Fair, Canada is huge. As of 2017, Canadian mobile networks covered two million square kilometres. However, consider that Australia — not often described as “small” — boasts coverage for 99% of its population, and yet Canadians pay nearly five times as much per gigabyte of data. Clearly, this isn’t the whole story.

As one technology law professor at the University of Ottawa put it, the Big Three charge as much as they do simply “because they can.” With three big providers enjoying big profits — the industry’s profit margin was 46.2% in 2015 — they just don’t have much incentive to cut prices. Who needs a bigger slice when the pie’s big enough to share?[a]

So, with mobile data almost a necessity in modern society, and three huge providers controlling the market, is there any way to fix this situation?

3 ways for Canadians to reduce their data spend

Fortunately, our situation isn’t hopeless. While we can’t reasonably expect to pay as little as the average Indian consumer ($0.26 USD per 1GB of data — ouch!), the prudent shopper can bring their bill down to more reasonable levels.

  1. Watch your usage

Unless you’re on an unlimited data plan, you risk overage charges if you don’t keep an eye on your data usage. Here are a few ways to save precious megabytes:

  • Monitor usage: Use your provider’s app or website to monitor your monthly usage. If you’re getting close to your limit, follow the next steps!
  • Use Wi-Fi: Be sure you’re connected to Wi-Fi when you’re at home, work, or somewhere with a trustworthy connection — but beware of dodgy networks!
  • Tighten your settings: Some apps, like Spotify, use data even when you’re not using them. These trickles can really add up over the month. Your smartphone should have cellular data usage options, where you can adjust data allowances for certain apps.
  1. Do your homework

Companies have plenty of tricks up their sleeves to make their plans sound like the best on the market. But don’t take the bait!

For example, alarm bells should start ringing in your head when you see data costs advertised in terms of cents per megabyte. This pricing strategy uses a behavioural economics theory called ‘anchoring’ — if most plans are advertised with a cost per GB (say $30) then of course 5cents per MB is going to look cheaper. It’s a lower number, after all! But, in truth, charging by megabyte is a smoke screen almost certainly disguising rates that are either comparable to, or worse than, the average data plan.

Perhaps the most important tip is this: shop around. While the mainstream providers tend to avoid dramatically undercutting one another, they do occasionally have promos and other offers that can save you big, at least in the short-term.

Or...

  1. Switch over to a challenger brand

Across Canada, smaller companies are now offering plans that look increasingly attractive compared to those of the major providers.

Worried that you won’t get the coverage or data speeds you’re used to from bigger telecoms companies? Don’t be. While these “challenger brands” are promising vastly more affordable packages, the connectivity is still second to none. In fact, many of these alternative providers use the same networks as the “Big Three” — without the associated price tag.

Take Wundle Mobile, for example. Instead of the usual bewildering assortment of plans, Wundle offers a single plan at an unbeatable price. For a $70/month flat fee — including taxes — users get unlimited Canada-wide calling, unlimited data, and all the fixings (unlimited picture and video messaging, voicemail, call display, etc.). Wundle uses the major networks, so you’re getting a big-name product for a newcomer’s price.

With offers like this from fresh competition, why not help level out the playing field?

It’s time to give Canadians a break 

Having the internet at our fingertips is incredible. Not only can we stream hilarious cat videos and new album tracks in line at the grocery store, but mobile data also connects us with the world — instantly and anywhere.

Wundle.ca believes in delivering Canada’s best unlimited data plan, at a price that’s fair for everyone. Join today and stop paying more than you have to for unlimited data.