More than half of Canadians think there are more low-cost data plans now than before: poll

Shruti Shekar
Telecom & Tech Reporter

Eighty-six per cent of Canadians think the government should form new rules to allow regional wireless networks to better compete with national carriers, according to polling conducted by Abacus Data on behalf of Shaw Communications. 

While the majority of consumers agree that new rules should be developed, and believe that regional carriers will continue to reduce prices, 65 per cent of consumers say geographic coverage of wireless networks needs to be improved over the next five to 10 years, the report said. 

“Canadians want both affordable prices through competition [and] public policy choices that allow for the wireless network they rely on to be improved because they believe they will need more reliable and faster networks with broader coverage in the future,” the report said. 

Abacus said that 74 per cent of consumers today say that there are more “lower-cost options today than when they negotiated the wireless package they are currently on,” but still feel “an affordability crunch.”

The poll’s results were released on February 12, about a week before the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) started a two-week-long hearing reviewing mobile wireless services in Canada. 

The CRTC’s intention is to determine whether or not Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs), wholesale service providers that offer services at cheaper rates, should have mandated access to networks.  

According to the CRTC’s Communications Monitoring Report, mobile prices dropped 35 per cent from 2016 to 2018. In June 2019, Rogers was also the first to roll out new unlimited data cell phone plan rates starting at $75. Bell and Telus followed shortly after.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he would cut cell phone bills during the last election, but the party has not provided details on how that would work. 

Another dataset from the industry group Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA) indicated that 60 per cent of Canadians support having the “largest mobile service providers to share their infrastructure with new or smaller providers” to create more competition. 

CIRA said its research report, which will have information on methodology, will be released in March. 

The Abacus Data poll was conducted online with 1,850 Canadians aged 18 and over from January 30 to February 2. The margin of error was 2.3 per cent.