Sunday, 29 June 2008 13:32

Oh Canada! Rogers gives iPhone users an expensive rogering

Canada’s dominant telco, Rogers, has announced its voice and data plans for the upcoming iPhone 3G. For the love of Steve Jobs (and God), please don’t let anything like these plans surface in Australia!

The big North American rip-off happens in a little ol’ place called Canada, where the effective monopoly GSM/3G telco is Rogers. So expensive are its services in general that it charges even more for voice and data than Australia’s dominant telco, Telstra!

From July 11, Canadians can line up to “enjoy” the benefit of having a radical and highly expensive surgical wallet transplant process, carefully extracting said wallet from their back pockets and directly transplanting it into the bank account of Rogers.

The risk of going over the voice and data limits in Rogers’ iPhone plans are also high and could cause a further expensive transfusion of cash if patients – I mean, Canadian iPhone users, aren’t careful.

Unfortunately for potential Canadian owners the procedure lasts for at least three years, with no prospects of recovery at any time and a likely need for continual sedating medication to prevent patients from realising what’s going on and going back into shock.

Indeed so bleak is the situation that protests have erupted on the Internet, with even an open letter written to Apple CEO Steve Jobs to see if he can convince Rogers to lower their prices.

Sadly that will likely have as much chance as a snowball in hell, leaving Rogers secure in the knowledge its lucrative telecommunications business won’t be dropping the “lucrative” tag anytime soon.

Of course iPhone ownership is totally voluntary, even in Canada, so only the brave and the cashed up will take the risk of the iPhone medical money transplant procedure.

That said, many Canadians needing mobile communications for business, safety and to communicate with family and friends have already undergone this risky procedure with all manner of other mobile telephone devices and have similarly needed to undergo the horrific wallet transplant process, so at least Canadians are somewhat used regular financial violation.

While few are happy about it, expensive telecommunications is a simple fact of life in Canada, like ice hockey, French, saying ‘aboot’ and forever having to pay for more goods and services than their US cousins south of the border.

So, just how much are Canadians set to be ripped off by, and how does it compare to the prices Americans will pay for using the iPhone 3G? CONTINUED on page 2...

Ok, so here’s the choice of plans that Canadians wanting a Rogers iPhone 3G are forced to choose from, with all the following prices in Canadian dollars.

To start with, all plans require a massive three year contract, which compares with two years in the US, likely two years in Australia and only 18 months in the UK, and it appears you’ll still need to pay the equivalent of US $199 for the 8GB iPhone 3G and US $299 for the 16GB model.

All the following plans also come with unlimited evening and weekend minutes which is at least something, unlimited incoming text messages and unlimited voicemail messages using Visual Voicemail.

For the curious, “evening minutes” are listed as being from 9pm to 7am Monday to Friday, and “weekend minutes” are from 9 pm Friday to 7am Monday.

The cheapest plan starts at CAD $60 per month, which gives you 150 voice minutes you can use at any time and 75 text messages you can send out.

You also get a paltry 400MB of data transfer which Rogers tries to rationalise as ‘up to 200,000 text emails or 3,100 web pages or 1,360 photo attachments’.

Of course any combination of email, web browsing or sending photo attachments lowers those numbers accordingly, and it also forgets the iPhone can be used to watch YouTube videos, receive Google Maps data and download apps from the App Store, along with whatever data those new download apps will use, all of which could potentially chew through your data usage limits much faster.

To make up for the low data plans (of which we’ll see the rest in a moment), Rogers offers free Wi-Fi access at all of its own hotspots, and at Fido hotspots, a company which was once a competitor but which Rogers now owns.

The next plan costs $75 per month, gives you 300 anytime voice minutes, 100 outgoing text messages, and a 750MB data cap.

Rogers says that 750MB is good for "up to 380,000 text emails or 5,900 web pages or 2,560 photo attachments."

If you can spare $100 per month, you’ll get 600 anytime minutes, 200 outgoing text messages and a 1GB data cap. Rogers says this is good for "up to 524,000 text emails or 8,000 web pages or 3,500 photo attachments."

Those who can spare a few dollars more can opt for the $115 per month plan, giving you 800 anytime minutes, 300 outgoing text messages and a 2GB data cap, which is rationalised as “up to 1,048,000 text emails or 16,000 web pages or 7,000 photo attachments."

If you go over these limits, you’ll have to pay 35c per minute for additional weekday minutes on the $60 plan, 35c per minute on the $75 plan, 25c per minute on the $100 plan and 15c per minute on the $115 plan.

Additional text messages will be charged at 15c per message, while going over your data cap means paying 50c per MB for the first 60 megabytes, and then 3c per MB thereafter.

You can also opt for one of two ‘value packs’ which give you features that frankly should come as standard. Pay up an addition $15 per month and you’ll get Caller ID, Who Called, Caller Ring Trax, 2,500 Sent Text Messages and 2,500 Call Forwarding Minutes.

Stump up $20 per month and you get Caller ID, Who Called, Caller Ring Trax, 10,000 Sent Text Messages and 6pm Early Evening Calling and 2,500 Call Forwarding Minutes.

So, how does all of this compare with AT&T’s prices? Continued on page 3.

The other North Americans, those in the USA, get much cheaper plans in comparison, highlighting just how high the Canadian iPhone charges really are.

You can see AT&T’s voice plans here.

In US dollars, 450 minutes a month of voice minutes and 5000 nights/weekend minutes costs $39.99 per month.

900 minutes with unlimited nights/weekends costs $59.99 per month, 1350 minutes costs $79.99, and an ‘unlimited minutes’ plan costs $99.99 per month.

Add $30 per month for a data plan, and you get unlimited data.

You do need to pay extra for text messages, and there might be other taxes to pay, and the $199 8GB and $299 16GB iPhone 3G prices must also be paid, but it’s still easy to see just how much more Canadians are being charged for voice and data than US users.

So now that Canadian iPhone voice and data plans are known, let’s hope that Australian iPhone plans will be much better value.

With two confirmed carriers (Optus and Vodafone) and potentially four carriers in total (with the expected but not confirmed addition of Telstra and Three Mobile), Australia's much more competitive telecommunications market still gives some small hope that Australian iPhone pricing won’t be an iRipoff!

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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

One of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.

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