Waiting for wireless high speed data in Canada, means waiting for competition

Why does Canada lag so far behind places like the UK in terms of mobile high speed data adoption? The obvious answer is that it is a lack of competition, but when you really dig into “lack of competition” what is the actual impact? Looking at the mobile high speed data market in Canada provides a front-row seat view into what happens when there is no competition.

You do not need to examine Bell, Rogers and Telus’ mobile data offers for very long to realize that none of these guys have had much luck figuring out how to sell this service in Canada. They’ve gone ahead and built these tremendously expensive wireless networks and yet they continue to have seemingly no idea who in the marketplace wants to actually buy access to this network! They have continually shown that they believe the only possible buyers for this service is high-end business customers who can justify a minimum of $60/month over and above their existing mobile services bill. This message comes out loud and clear in both their marketing and in the outrageous prices they charge for the service. Is this really the best they could come up with? Where is the imagination and drive to get people using this network they spent so much money on? Have they done any market research, or do they really just not want anyone using the network (for that matter, try even finding the service on the Rogers website!)?

In many ways it seems like there is someone in these companies saying “Unless we make this much profit per user on this service we’d rather have the network sit there un-used”. This attitude has all but killed off the carrier controlled WIFI (Hotspot) networks in Canada as well. These WIFI networks have been priced so high that they are also only accessible to high-end business customers while the entirety of the rest of the market (all laptop users with WIFI cards) are completely ignored. Sorry, this service is not for you despite how much you want it. Oh, you would pay $5.00 more per month to have access to it? Sorry, that means we can’t get business users to pay $9.95 for 24 hours of access!

Now, for comparison purposes lets look at how things are done in the UK.

If we take the Three UK offer as an example – For business customers this service becomes a quite reasonable £10/mth add-on to whatever services they already have, and meanwhile for consumers this would be simply moving money from one hand to another by way of offering a replacement for their home broadband service. The carriers average revenue per user (ARPU) goes up for the business users and the mobile operator stands to gain new customers from the consumer space that perhaps they never had before and who may now be more inclined to join the same company later for mobile voice services.

These figures are interesting in that they paint a picture of a carrier going after a broad market with many multitudes more potential customers for this service then the Canadian carriers could ever dream of having within their tiny target market of ‘high-end business customers’. Without question, the UK has more business customers then the Canadian market could even imagine – the population is 2 times as big, it is the dominant business centre in Europe and one of the major financial centres in the world. But despite all of this, companies such as Three UK, made a decision which shows that at some point someone realized that going after only high-end business customers would not provide a big enough return on the investment made in building out these networks. So I have to ask the question, if these companies can’t do it here in the UK with just high-end business customers, how do the Canadian carriers ever expect to do it? Maybe I am missing some great piece of strategic information that the Canadian carriers know and I don’t but for the time being this seems like a plan built on very shaky ground.

Over the years I have of course tried to come up with a logical explanation, and to be honest I’ve only ever come up with two potential rational explanations for the Canadian Carriers apprehension to move beyond the safe harbour of their tiny market segment. The first being that they are not actually prepared operationally to handle large numbers of subscribers of a service like this, and the second that the networks themselves are not yet built to withstand the inevitable increased usage. With either of these reasons, the unfortunate truth is that these might have been acceptable answers 3 or 4 years ago but they are surely not today. If this is still the case then we simply have a case of a bunch of complacent monopolies driven by nothing but the safety of doing things the way they have always been done. Never reaching beyond, never striving for more.

Bell, Rogers, and Telus – It’s time to wake-up, start listening to your customers, give them what they want, stop letting the dust gather on that expensive network you built, and begin moving forward again. If you don’t do something soon, perhaps the newcomer will.

Google Maps for Mobile

The updated version of Google Maps for Mobile is awesome.

One of the new features of this version is “My Location” which works remarkably well and definitely makes getting this updated version a must-have. You can download it here.

Here is some more info on the My Location feature.