My smartphone bill: 2013 vs. 2010.


Continuing with the themes of nostalgia and progress from last week, this week I’m comparing cell phone bills — that is, what I’m paying Koodo, Rogers and Bell this month versus what I was paying Fido almost three years ago. All in the name of finding out if Canada’s upstart carriers have made The Big Three any better.

Before I switched to Mobilicity in October of 2010, here’s what I was paying Fido:

$45 – City Fido unlimited local minutes;
$30 – 6 GB iPhone data plan;
$15 – Smartphone Value Pack (voice mail, call display and 1,000 texts);

$90 – total per month.

When it came time to cancel I was dinged a whopping $300 in early termination fees — a $200 ETF for my voice plan and a separate $100 ETF for the data. Fortunately, my service with Mobilicity only cost me $35  — as such, my monthly savings had erased that loss by the following spring.

Unfortunately, Mobilicity couldn’t give me a usable signal inside my home. I eventually moved to WIND, which was better. But after experiencing LTE data for the first time — in Japan, of all places — WIND’s plodding data speeds would no longer do.

Cut to present day. Here’s what I’m paying for my mobile services in August, 2013:

$31.50Koodo 400 national minutes & unlimited SMS, with a 10% BYOD discount;
$15 – 300MB threshold on Koodo pay-as-you-go data;
$40 – 5GB data threshold on my Rogers LTE hotspot;
$20 – 500MB data threshold on my Bell LTE hotspot;

$106.50 – total for this month.

Ok, so that second hotspot is clearly a luxury — without it, my total bill would be a more reasonable $86.50. Either way, I’m still not getting as much data as I did with Fido in 2010.

Indeed, while voice minutes are fast becoming a commodity data is more expensive than ever. And the net result is that I’m paying more for less.

I’m not denying that real progress has been made in some areas. I’m thrilled that I don’t have to worry about long distance charges for calls made anywhere in Canada. Thing is, I hardly make phone calls — and with all the cheap and cheerful VoIP services out there airtime is something I don’t really worry about too much.

Also, text messaging (at least within Canada) is now unlimited, as it should be. Because we all know that SMS costs carriers absolutely nothing.

I’m happy to see that the dreaded “system access fee” is no longer a black mark on my monthly bill. As for the one-time activation fees, they seem to have gone away then come back; I had to nag Bell more than once to get the $35 activation fee for that second hotspot waived.

But the data…

I am now aware that Bell, Rogers and Telus have spent the last three years building out robust LTE networks across this country — and the first two have thoughtfully included support for both American and Euro/Asian bands of the service.

But with the highest ongoing ARPU in the world is it really necessary for The Big Three to pass on network upgrade costs to the consumer? In the absence of a viable competitor it looks like the answer is yes…