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Rogers improves wireless data control, scoffs at unlimited usage

Mobile app lets account holders apportion share everything plans to family members.

broadband data caps, wireless data control

Wireless Data Control:

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Rogers is giving its wireless customers more control over how they use their wireless data – but don’t even think about asking for more of it, and heaven forbid unlimited.

“If you go unlimited, you blow up your network,” Rogers chief executive Guy Laurence told a group of journalists on Thursday. “If we did that, we could register ourselves as a charity.”

Instead, the company is adding a tool to its mobile app that will give account holders fine-grained control over their “share everything” plans.

Using simple visual sliders, an account holder can apportion blocks of data to each user on their shared family plan. A parent who subscribes to a family plan that grants 10 gigabytes of usage per month could apportion 2 GB to each of two children, and 3 GB for herself and her spouse, for example.

The app the sends a notification to the user and the account holder when the usage threshold has been reached. The account holder then has the option to hit a kill switch and cut that particular user off for the rest of the month.

Account holders also have the option to purchase more data or even upgrade their plan from within the app. The data packs costs $7 for 300 megabytes of $15 for one GB, which is less expensive than incurrent overage charges.

It’s an elegant solution to one of the top complaints received by Rogers, Laurence said. The company gets 1.5 million calls per year from customers regarding exceeding data usage. Better control – especially for families – will help mitigate that, he said. “The whole point is to put control back in the hands of the customer.”

wireless-data

Rogers expects the new data management feature to be as popular as Roam Like Home, the roaming system it put in place two years ago. With Roam Like Home, travellers to the United States can continue using their home wireless plan normally for an extra $5 a day. International travellers pay $10.

The feature has removed the angst for travellers of using their phones while abroad, Laurence said. His accountants urged him not to go ahead with Roam Like Home because it would cost the company money, but Laurence was convinced that subscribers would end up using their phones more. That’s what happened, he said, with volume usage now resulting in equal revenue.

Laurence was adamant that better data management tools – and not more data – are the key to eliminating similar customer angst over exceeding monthly usage limits. “I’m not running a charity,” he said.

Ironically, the company has no plans to introduce a similar tool for wired home internet because many subscribers there are moving to unlimited usage plans – about 40 per cent of them so far. Wireless is different from wired, Laurence added, because the network doesn’t have as much capacity and can’t handle unlimited data usage.

Carriers in other countries, such as T-Mobile in the United States, are offering unlimited plans, though. Laurence said such plans aren’t really unlimited because they throttle users’ speeds at certain points. “It’s a marketing hook. It’s not genuine to me.”

On a related note, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission on Thursday scolded Rogers, Bell and other large internet providers for being “not just and reasonable” when it comes to wholesale internet access.

The regulator found that the access rates the companies wanted to charge smaller wholesale customers were too high and lowered them temporarily by as much as 89 per cent.

Smaller internet providers typically provide services at lower prices than their bigger competitors. The extra competition they provide – absent in wireless – has arguably forced companies such as Rogers into providing unlimited usage on home internet.

The CRTC will consult with various parties before setting final wholesale rates, but chairman Jean Pierre Blais had harsh words for Rogers and the rest on Thursday.

“Competitors that provide retail internet services to Canadians using wholesale high-speed services must have access to these services at just and reasonable prices. The fact that these large companies did not respect accepted costing principles and methodologies is very disturbing,” he said.

Data management tools are hot all of a sudden. Also this week, Google announced its own Google WiFi home internet router. The associated mobile app will allow users to cut internet access off from certain family members, similar to Rogers’ new wireless system.

The device will ship in the United States in December, but there’s no release date for Canada yet.

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3 Comments on Rogers improves wireless data control, scoffs at unlimited usage

  1. For once I believe they are telling the truth – unlimited doesn’t make sense on wireless networks (hence all the caveats when it is offered).

    The controls they offer help a little I guess, but are only needed because the base system is so complicated. When you sign-up for a plan you are expected to estimate the max amount you will need each month for the next 24 months. That is insane.

    On the rare occasion where they offer tiered plans they are so expensive that they must just be for show.

  2. “I’m not running a charity” … should we be concerned that the repetition of this phrase makes it plausible (like some children I’ve known) they just figured this out? Perhaps up until now they were thinking everyone was just giving them “free money”… because they wanted to out of the goodness of their hearts?

    Either way, they are words I hope some future disruptive technology makes them eat while looking for free ride bail outs at the end of their relevance, as I doubt any “competition” on existing/privatized technologies will soon be able to break this industry of price gouging/fixing over intangible goods.

  3. It is time to open up the cell market just like the internet. Force the big ones to share the networks at a reasonable rate.

    Every communications company must be told to share their lines to boost competition and keep them honest. This is the only way the people of Canada can keep from being ripped off by them.

    I live in an area where there is only one high-speed ISP and they are not forced to share their lines. Hence, we pay huge prices for access. It is actually 1/3 higher than the town I moved from where the ISP had to share their lines.

    Forcing them to open competition will only boost competitiveness and be a win for the Canadian people. If the big telecoms don’t like that, then maybe they are in the wrong business.

    Come on, CRTC, open the cell network just like you did the Internet!

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