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Canada’s Cellular Cartel: 3 Wireless Companies Control 94 Percent of the Market

Next time you wonder why you are paying substantially higher cell phone bills than your neighbors abroad, take note: just three cell phone companies control 94 percent of the wireless marketplace in Canada, with more than 23.5 million combined subscribers.  The four other significant carriers have a combined subscriber base of around 1.5 million, hardly worth noticing by the largest three:

Rogers Communications

The telecom giant Rogers controls the largest share of the Canadian wireless market with 9,127,000 subscribers as of the end of June.  Nearly 7.5 million of those customers are on two year contracts and pay an average bill of $70.07 per month.  Prepaid customers pay substantially less for their occasional-use phones: $16.14 a month.  Rogers adds more subscribers than it loses, picking up 591,000 new customers during the first quarter, while losing 456,000 current customers, winning a net gain of 135,000.

Data revenue is becoming increasingly important for Rogers, now constituting 35 percent of earnings for the company’s wireless division.


Coming in at second place is Bell Canada, with 7,283,000 customers.  Over 5.7 million are on contract, 1.6 million are using Bell prepaid phones.  Bell added just under 38,000 new customers last quarter, the smallest net add among the three largest providers.  The average contract customer pays Bell $63.18 a month; prepaid customers pay $16.88.

Telus Mobility

Telus, western Canada’s largest phone company, sells wireless service across the country and has become the third largest wireless provider with 5.8 million contract customers and 1.2 million prepaid clients.  Together, they pay an average of $58.88 a month.  Telus picked up 94,000 net additions last quarter, which is better than Bell but worse than Rogers.

Everyone Else

Among the rest, Saskatchewan’s phone company Sasktel had managed to reach 568,000 subscribers, mostly in the province, as of late March.  MTS Allstream Inc., a wholly-owned subsidiary of Manitoba Telecom came in with 489,722 customers.  Videotron, Quebec’s biggest cable company, had 210,600 clients, mostly in Quebec.

Among the newest entrants, Wind Mobile, subject to considerable controversy for its foreign financial backing, may one day be a much larger player in Canada’s wireless marketplace, but not today.  It had just 271,000 customers as of March 31st.

Even fewer customers rely on some of Canada’s regional providers, which include companies like Thunder Bay Telephone, Lynx Mobility (co-owned by an aboriginal partner with a mission to serve rural Canada), Calgary-based AirTel, which is popular with oil/gas workers for its “push to talk” service, and Ice Wireless, which is the largest GSM carrier in northern Canada, reaching 70% of the population of Nunavut and the Northwest Territories.

Canada’s largest three providers also own or control several “competitors” that mostly sell prepaid service.  Customers thinking they are escaping the big boys often really are not:

  • Fido is owned by Rogers;
  • Virgin Mobile Canada is owned by Bell;
  • Koodo Mobile is owned by Telus

Currently there are 12 comments on this Article:

  1. ScytheNoire says:

    And because of this, our service sucks, we are behind the technology curve, and our prices are sky high. The same holds true for internet service in Canada, also because of monopolies. When will the government do something about this and put a stop to it. Can’t rely on the CRTC who is bought and owned by them.

  2. TK says:

    This is where we are headed in the states, if the FCC and DOJ approve AT&T taking over T-Mobile.

  3. jamar says:

    Wonder how much of Rogers’ customer base is short-term? I came here expecting to be able to just pick up a local number for temporary use and an iPad SIM (or Pocket WiFi, in the case of the new providers). They were the only ones who would give me service with just an American passport and CC. Every other provider insisted that I have some form of Canadian ID. So it’s their own darn fault.

  4. Matt says:

    also should of mentioned Chatr is owned by Rogers and Solo is owned by Bell and Telus owns Clearnet

  5. Lydia says:

    Many people in Canada are subscribed with East Link. I find it odd that that provider is not mentioned here.

  6. Hauer says:

    Where is mobilicity?

    • In response to folks looking for their own favorite carriers, most of those being mentioned are either mostly regional players, prepaid providers, or new entrants, for which we don’t have sales figures (yet).

      This doesn’t mean they aren’t fine providers — they just don’t have a market share large enough to be a part of this particular piece.

  7. HO says:

    …such a great article if ur looking for misinformation….and to confirm that, just look at the answer above:

    -“In response to folks looking for their own favorite carriers, most of those being mentioned are either mostly regional players, prepaid providers, or new entrants, for which we don’t have sales figures (yet).

    This doesn’t mean they aren’t fine providers — they just don’t have a market share large enough to be a part of this particular piece.”

    …really???….allow me to give u a better readout:

    • andrew says:

      They captured 25% of the NEW subscribers… They still hold 6% (split between all of them) of the total market share. That article disproves nothing.

      You may want to at least read the title of the article before posting it.

  8. Troy says:

    Can’t wait for my contract to be up with bell. Worst customer service I’ve ever had the miss fortune of dealing with. Time to move on.

  9. John says:

    Different government in power, same corruption. This government does nothing to protect consumers from greedy monopolistic corporations looking to rob its customers for everything they got. Canada needs more competition and right now that is not happening. Until that happens prices will remain high and consumer choice will continue to be limited.

  10. George says:

    “Data revenue is becoming increasingly important for Rogers”, and for the other two as well.
    While smartphones can download at 21Mbs, data rates are as high as $3MB. And don’t try to get a data only plan for a Smartphone – it doesn’t exist. Tablet yes, phone no.You have to buy a voice plan first, regardless of whether you use it or not. Of course this hikes the price of mobile data even further. The argument appears to be that if everyone used more data, there would be congestion.
    (that one is also favoured by UBB advocates.) Strange – it seems that the big three want to slow down the evolution of the internet away from voice, and price mobile data so high that use is tightly restricted. Have you ever heard of a business which bases its’ future predictions on the premise that it can’t grow its’ present infrastructure?

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