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Wireless prices falling, but Canadians pay more overall for mobile services: CRTC

According to a CRTC report, the mobile wireless market saw the most significant price reduction when compared to internet, television and home phone services. (Getty)

A new report from the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) says the cost of mobile plans has decreased an average of 28 per cent over the last two years, but Canadians are still paying more for wireless services overall.

According to the CRTC’s Communications Monitoring report, released on Thursday, the mobile wireless market saw the most significant price reduction when compared to internet, television and home phone services. The CRTC analyzed four levels of mobile service for 24 cities and 54 rural communities across the country and found that, on average, prices fell by 28 per cent between 2016 and 2018.

The CRTC found that the price per month for plans with unlimited calls and texts plus 5GB of data fell from $78.36 in 2016 to $51.05 in 2018, the most significant decline (35 per cent) among the four categories analyzed.

While prices for those plans analyzed by the CRTC may be dropping, the report also found that Canadians are paying more overall for their mobile services. The CRTC said in a statement released Thursday that the general increase in communication service bills across the country is due to “Canadians’ appetite for the latest mobile devices, more data, and faster broadband speeds.”

The report found Canadians spend an average of $233.00 per month on communications services, which is up 4.6 per cent – or $10.17 – from 2016, well above the inflation rate of 1.6 per cent.

Wireless plans were the costliest monthly expense between the four communications services, which includes mobile, Internet, television and landline offerings. Canadians paid an average of $101 per month on mobile services, followed by $54.17 on Internet, $52.58 on television services and $25.25 on landlines. Spending on internet services jumped 9.4 per cent from 2016 to 2017, while spending on mobile services increased 9.7 per cent during the same time.

Laura Tribe, the executive director of consumer advocacy group Open Media, said that while it’s a positive step that prices have gone down, Canadian wireless providers still have a long ways to go in terms of making plans more affordable.

“We’re still far behind our international counterparts in terms of data usage, and that’s because of the high cost,” Tribe said in an interview.

“What we really need to see is even more competition and lower prices to make sure that we’re able to fully use the internet and the potential of it in the way that we’re promised, and that we’re not being restricted based on cost.”

Recently, Canada’s Big Three cellphone providers have been rolling out so-called unlimited data plans to address Canadians’ desire for mobile plans with more data. The new plans come as the CRTC conducts a review of the Canadian mobile market that is focusing on “whether further action is required to improve choice and affordability for Canadians.”

But even with the so-called unlimited plans, Tribe says the cost per gigabyte of data in Canada is “so exorbitantly high” compared to other countries.

“It’s good to see that the prices are coming down, because that’s the only way they can go,” she said. “They are still so high. This isn’t enough.”

Unsurprisingly, the CRTC report found that the smallest communication expense across Canada was for landline services, which have been on a rapid decline over the last several years. The report found that younger households (where the reference person was under the age of 30) spent an average of just $6.08 per month on landline services, while the oldest households (where the reference person was over the age of 65) paid more than six times that with an average spend of $37.83 per month.

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