In recent months, I’ve often complained about the state of wireless data access in Canada – that is, how expensive it is to use the Web, access email and operate instant messaging over mobile devices. These incredibly high data rates make access to devices like the BlackBerry, HTC TyTN, and the obligatory iPhone limited to those users who have a business or government-locked plan with unlimited access.
One of the references I frequently cite is that Canada is worse than some third-world countries when it comes to this sort of thing.
As an aspiring developer, I’m incredibly interested in what these new devices are capable of. In order to make a serious go of Web development for mobile devices, though, it’s at least a $200 plus contract investment.
Working for Research in Motion gives an especially interesting perspective on the scenario. As a co-op student, I have a device with an (allegedly) unlimited data plan; co-ops don’t get voice (phone calls) activated on their units unless it actively relates to their job role. Since I work on BIS projects, this doesn’t apply to me – which is fine, I’d rather not place personal calls on a work device. I’m not an incredibly heavy data user by any means: I hit Google News once per workday at lunch, and I used Blackberry Maps for about 20 minutes this weekend to try and find out where MacGregor Point’s entrance was.
If I added in a bit of Facebook Mobile access, this type of data usage as a standard consumer would likely put me in a 25MB/month bracket – less than 1MB per day, which could easily be eaten up with a few Google Image searches.
Such a level of usage would require a $60/month, three year contract purchase plus whatever cell phone voice package I selected. Unless I was willing to call up my provider and argue over retention plans (which is a very popular topic at Howard Forums), I could be paying well over $100/month.
The ever-present speculation on forums and blogs to date seems to surmise that if and when Rogers is awarded the iPhone contract in Canada, they’ll be forced by Apple to reduce data rates to something more in line with the United States unlimited plans – $60 per month for a goodly number of minutes, text messages and unlimited EDGE access. Once this change is implemented, the other carriers will supposedly fall into position. I don’t have any insider industry information on this though: one would think purchasers of the BlackBerry Pearl, the highly consumer-oriented device, would already be raising hell about the situation.
As a consumer, I’d welcome lower-cost, wide availability of data plans. Just don’t count on the magical Apple product to change things here. I’ve heard suggestions of writing to the CRTC, the MP for my region, the Minister of Industry, and the Prime Minister. Would any of these things actually be the correct place to direct my concerns?
Standard disclaimer: Although I work for RIM, chances are you know just about as much as I do about future product plans, business speculation, and carrier relationships. Go check Engadget or something if you really want dirt. Anything mentioned in this post or on this site is strictly my opinion and most certainly not that of my employer. This posting confers no warranties, rights, or anything else that you think you’re owed. I’m under an NDA, so anything mentioned here is already public knowledge or my own personal speculation.