Technology

Rogers roaming rate slash a welcome move: Peter Nowak

Other carriers will likely follow suit.

Investors are being cautious in the wake of Rogers' big LTE rollout (Photo: Darryl Dyck/CP)

(Photo: Darryl Dyck/CP)

It’s not every day Canadian wireless customers get good news, but today happens to be one of those with Rogers announcing that it’s cutting U.S. roaming rates. Customers can now buy roaming packages that supply 50 megabytes of data per day for $7.99, a 20% cut from the previous $10.

The company says 50 MB is double what the typical subscriber uses per day in Canada. That’s likely true, although it’s a bit of a misnomer in that people usually need their phone’s data more when they’re not at home and need another way to access e-mail and the like. Ultimately, it’s not that hard to crack 50 MB while travelling.

Nevertheless, it’s still a welcome move because roaming is quickly approaching affordability—with a little planning and forethought, Rogers customers can now visit the U.S. without breaking the bank.

It’s also better than what rivals are offering. Bell has U.S. data packs of 100 MB for $40, with 50 MB on Telus costing the same (the company sells 25 MB blocks for $20 each). With the companies’ tendencies to follow each other in lockstep on pricing, Bell and Telus customers will hopefully see better roaming rates soon.

Rogers (which owns Canadian Business) also conducted a survey of travellers to go with its rate cut, finding that: “Canadians’ preferred activities include using maps (71%), looking up restaurants and local activities (61%), checking the weather (57%), and reviewing their travel or flight status on their device (58%).”

The rate cut also comes in the face of growing scrutiny of the wireless industry from both the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission and the government, which have both received an earful from Canadians over the past few months. The government is currently reviewing how wireless spectrum—the lifeblood of all carriers—can be transferred between players, while the CRTC is in the process of finalizing a code to govern the industry. Roaming rates ranked highly among complaints the two authorities have been receiving.

Coincidentally, a J.D. Power report also issued on Thursday reveals that despite the supposedly hot competition that the big incumbent wireless carriers say exists, the average Canadians’ bill has climbed by 13% to $77, from $68 in 2012. That’s not good, but on the plus side smartphone use and customer satisfaction is also on the rise, with penetration climbing to 63% from 9% and the satisfaction index climbing to 691 from 685.

It’s important to note that the smartphone measure counts the number of total cellphone users who are using advanced devices, and is not a per capita measure. On that front, Canada is still well behind most of the world overall.