An annual snapshot of the federal government's telecom services shows a year-on-year decline in Canada's wireless prices, but, as usual, concludes that most G7 countries had less expensive packages.
"While progress is being made, prices in Canada remain expensive compared to other countries," said the Department of Innovation, Science and Economic Development (ISED), which commissioned the study in a statement.
For example, Canadian plans with two gigabytes per month of data cost an average of $ 75.44 per month when the 2018 survey was conducted in June and July, versus $ 81.61 per month in 2017.
The study also compares higher and lower levels of service, but wireless plans with 2 GB of data are a good reference because they reflect the usage patterns of many Canadians.
The report found that the average price in four medium-sized US cities was nearly 20 percent lower than the Canadian average, with $ 61.26 for plans with 2GB of data on a currency-adjusted basis.
Prices for the 2 GB plans were even lower in Berlin ($ 45.80), Paris ($ 30.91), London ($ 26.56) and Rome ($ 21.11). Only Tokyo became more expensive, with $ 81.52 – the only city studied that showed an increase year after year.
In Australia – the only non-G7 country covered by the annual study – the currency adjusted price of $ 24.70 in Sydney was less than one third of the Canadian average price for a Level 4 service that includes 2 GB of data.
The study segmented the wireless market into six levels of service. Level 1 – with only talk time and no text or data – cost an average of $ 25.73 and level 6 – feature rich family plans with at least 10 GB of shared data – costing on average $ 227.87 per month.
Wireless industry outlines the study's shortcomings
Major participants in the Canadian wireless industry, however, argue that there were serious shortcomings with the annual study, prepared for the federal government since 2008.
The Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association, which represents most of the country's top carriers, said it is pleased that ISED acknowledges that wireless prices are falling in Canada.
"We remain concerned, however, that this study does not provide an accurate comparison of wireless services across countries as it does not take into account the many different promotions offered by Canadian service providers while competing vigorously for customers," CWTA . said in an e-mail statement.
Likewise, a report by NERA Economic Consulting, commissioned by Telus Corp., which is not a member of CWTA, argues that the official Canadian study is poorly designed and subject to misinterpretation.
"It really makes very little sense because it compares [the prices of] totally different plans, "NERA managing director Christian Dippon said in an interview ahead of the release of this year's ISED report.
Dippon came to this conclusion after examining previous reports prepared from 2008 to 2017 by Wall or the Nordicity Group, using parameters set by the government or the federal telecoms regulator.
The NERA study proposes an alternative methodology that compares Canadian plans to a benchmark that aims to measure how much international providers would charge for the same level of service.
According to NERA, 89 of the 111 Canadian mobile phone plans in their sample were below their international benchmark.
The ISED minister's press secretary, Navdeep Bains, said he was not available to comment on the report on Friday.
In a statement, Bains said, "We are working hard to reduce the cost of cell phone plans. And as we are progressing, our government continues to focus on promoting greater competition in the telecommunications industry to reduce prices for Canadians, making sure that they can also benefit from the latest technology and high quality services. "