Mobile martyr or burn victim?

Ten years ago when I moved into my condo I switched my mobile service from my then mobile provider to Fido in order to get better reception. And now I’m seriously contemplating switching to another carrier for a much poorer signal — virtually none, in fact, within the walls of my own home.

If it sounds like a stupid idea hear me out; once I’ve told you the whole story I definitely want your opinion. But first, a little history…

The Dark Ages

Prior to 2010 the wireless space in Canada was largely controlled by three companies — Bell, Rogers and Telus. Before being bought up by Rogers Fido was actually a positive, disruptive force in the industry — and likewise with clearNET before it was assimilated into Telus. But with only three players on the board Canadians had no choice but to endure staggering three-year contracts with big penalties, and the most expensive data rates in the world.

Let There Be Light

Thanks to the auction of some new spectrum in the freak band of 3G there are three new players on the scene. Two of them — Mobilicity and WIND Mobile — take SIM cards and unlocked phones; none of them require contracts of any kind.

My Current Plan

I’m currently one year into two separate but simultaneous three-year contracts — one each for voice and data service.

Here’s how my monthly Fido bill breaks down:

$45 – City Fido (a plan with unlimited local minutes that pre-dates Rogers)
$30 – 6 GB of data (a “special offer” that required a separate contract)
$15 – Smartphone Value Pack (voice mail, call display and 1,000 or so texts)

The early termination fees for this particular would total $300 — $200 for the voice contract and another $100 for data.

What Could Be

Both Mobilicity and WIND are currently running promotions with very tempting “unlimited everything” plans.

For 12 months you can get WIND’s “Always Shout” & “Infinite Laptop” for $50/month before taxes; after that it’ll revert to the regular rates — adding up to $90 total, though you could easily knock ten bucks off of that by switching to the Infinite Mobile plan for data.

Mobilicity’s promotion is even better — $35/month plus taxes for everything, forevermore. The only catch is the nominal signal in my house. Just outside my door it’s fine; inside there isn’t enough to sustain a call.

Practical Concerns

I wouldn’t even consider giving up a reliable voice signal within the confines of my home were it not for four factors:

  1. Texting still works – Maybe because they’re so small and require just a momentary blip of service I can so far send & receive within a window of a few minutes.  As SMS is honestly my primary means of telecommunication with friends this is a very good thing.
  2. For talking there’s Skype – Since voice mails are delivered as texts I can always plug a headset into my computer and return a call with SkypeOut. There would be some extra cost but it wouldn’t be a big deal when I’m saving $55/month on my cellular bill.
  3. For in-home data there’s WiFi – And if said WiFi were to go down I guess I’d have to put a coat on step outside.
  4. Reception will get better – The more customers they get (and keep) the more towers they can eventually build, and the better it gets for everyone.

Given the $90/month that I’m currently handing over to Rogers I could be one of those people with two phone lines, downgrading my Fido service so that the two add up to the same price. Or I could use the generous activation credits that both Mobilicity and WIND provide to offset my early termination fees with Fido, and try out an account each on Canada’s two upstart carriers.

The activist in me really wants to vote with my wallet, to do what I can to support real competition in this country and to punish Rogers for not being competitive. And the pragmatist in me thinks I can make do with the obvious (but hopefully temporary) shortcoming in Mobilicity’s service.

What do you think?


  1. AC:
    Been a while since I commented! I’ve since swallowed the Kool-Aid and strapped on an iPhone 3GS for a 3-year stint with Bell.

    I considered the new wireless companies as well as the big 3, but given I don’t have a landline anymore I opted for Bell. Coverage was the one plus, as was loyalty–they pay my employer a lot of money for our services.

    We just moved into a new place, and I have to admit I was a bit nervous back in Sept when we first saw it, until I saw that I got 5 bars in all rooms. We ended up going with a Bell landline, bundled with ISP, but I would have a problem if I didn’t have a landline and anything less than 4-5 bars of wireless. That’s just me, though.

    I’d suggest waiting–stay with Fido. If WIND and Mobilicity are still around when your contracts run out (and they haven’t been bought out by the Big 3), go for it then.


  2. An iPhone, you say? What a surprise. 😉

    Having used Android almost exclusively for the last couple of weeks I’m starting to see what the touch-based fuss is all about — I still think Apple’s phone is far too restrictive, but it’s a step up from your LG, at least…

    Since writing this post this I’ve had much better luck with WIND, and now that I’m back from vacation will look into tweaking my Mobilicity data settings as well.

    I have a really big problem supporting the incumbent telcos when they’ve gotten away with so much shit for so long. It was certainly a mistake to renew contracts with Fido and not follow my own advice; some wallet-based activism is the least I can do to make amends…

  3. AC:
    Yeah, I was aware I was drinking the Kool-Aid. The iPhone was the easy part–it plays nice with my Macs and the bigger screen kicked my ol’ LG Chocolate’s butt. The iPhone is much less restrictive, too–I wasn’t locked into using the Bell browser, which had to be the most locked down, restrictive mobile browser. And I’ve loaded the iPhone up with free apps.
    The hard part was signing another 3-year contract with Bell. I don’t feel it was a mistake–yet–but it did feel like voting for one candidate to try to prevent another from winning an election: you didn’t do it for the right reason, and you feel the need for a shower afterwards….

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