The gospel of Canadian carrier price-fixing, according to Best Buy.

Best Buy Mobile

Every so often when I find myself near a Best Buy I pop in and grab the latest edition of their mobile flyer. Usually I don’t give it much more than a cursory flip-through, but with all the news out there about the sorry state of wireless service in this country, plus rumours about my own carrier being put up for sale, I was moved to take a closer look at the good book of Best Buy to see what most Canadians are getting, and for how much.

This isn’t in any way an exhaustive breakdown of cellular plans in Canada. All I’m looking for is the most voice, SMS and data that I can get. To wit, my current plan with WIND Mobile includes the following:

  • Unlimited North America-wide calling;
  • unlimited worldwide SMS;
  • unlimited data (throttled upon reaching a 5GB threshold each month).

Monthly bill = $40

To be fair, you can’t really call WIND a national carrier; they’ve done a much better job than Mobilicity in bringing service to Canada’s urban centres, but the service is limited to those urban centres — plus they don’t offer service at all in Qu├ębec.

So perhaps a better comparison would be to what I was paying Fido in 2010 prior to jumping ship to Mobilicity (then to WIND a year and a bit later). Here’s how that plan broke down:

  • Unlimited local calling;
  • unlimited Canada-wide SMS;
  • 6GB of data.

Monthly bill = $90

That was a pretty good deal before the upstarts came to town and set up shop. Now, in 2013, Rogers offers the following:

  • Unlimited Canada-wide calling;
  • unlimited Canada-wide SMS;
  • 5GB of data.

Monthly bill = $100

In other words, Canadians are now paying more for less.

Even more surprising is the lack of price differentiation between carriers. The fattest data plan from Telus is exactly the same as the Rogers plan above. Plans from Koodo (owned by Telus) and Bell are actually worse — $80 and $75 respectively for only 3GB of data. Virgin Mobile uses the Bell network and charges $80 for 3GB; 2GB of data overages would add another $20 to that — that is, $100 for 5GB.

And Rogers-owned Fido is worst of all — $80/month gets you only 1GB of data. With overages at $10/GB you’ll only get 3GB for $100. The 6GB that I used to get with Fido would set me back $130/month!

Sure, this is the latest and greatest LTE (4G) data we’re talking about here — and if you wanted an LTE-compatible handset your selection is more or less limited to the same three or four phones on each network. So when it comes to choice in mobile products and services, Canadians don’t seem to have much of it.

Of course, all this is according to Best Buy. Blessed are we urbanites for Canada’s upstart carriers. All they need now is some of that sweet, sweet LTE…