The wireless market in Canada is heating up with some competitive cell phone plans.

Top mobile service provider Rogers recently decided to fight wireless newcomers in their own game by introducing its own Chatr discount brand aimed at the same customers as Mobilicity, Wind  and Public Mobile. And the wireless incumbent launched despite a threat from Mobilicity’s Chairman about taking Rogers to court if they proceeded with the launch – I guess we will have to see what happens. Meanwhile, here’s my take on Rogers’ new discount brand.

What do I like about these plans?

Chatr is a prepaid brand which is almost identical to the offering of the other brands – no contracts, no fees and no credit checks. But with one main advantage – an already established network! So here are the key aspects of Chatr’s offering that I like:

  • The Network – because this is Rogers network – it covers over 90 per cent of the Canadian population – and is arguably the best in Canada (according to them!). This means their are no roaming hand offs or dropped calls when you travel outside of a zone and roam on another network as you would with Mobilicity, Wind Mobile or Public Mobile. It’s all one network.  Chatr calls it the “no worries” network.
  • Simple plans – unlimited $35 plan, which essentially is unlimited calling to numbers in your province and a $45 plan which is unlimited calling in Canada, providing of course that you stay within your home zone.
  • A larger home zone that the other players so customers will be able to go further with their phones without having to worry about out of zone fees
  • Cheap phones – Most of their cell phones are under the $100 mark which is good for the truly discount crowd

What don’t I like?

I won’t repeat the fact that I’m not a big fan of prepaid plans – I guess I just did – but here are my thoughts on what I’m not so sure about:

  • Eliminate the zones – don’t limit people in a zone if the network is already covered. I think there is an opportunity for a $65 plan without any zones – but we’ll see.
  • The cell phone selections are limited – I guess this is the point – cheap, simple and limited phone choices. While this may be so, I’m sure Rogers can have a wider selection of sub $100 plans for customers to choose from – let’s see what happens in the future
  • $0.25 to retrieve voicemail on the $35/month plan! C’mon throw in the voicemail or just don’t have it at all.
  • 50 text messages in the $35 plan is too small, what I suggest is a $25 dollar plan with a limited text bucket of say 50 text messages and the $35 dollar plan with something like 2500 or unlimited.
  • I would like to see a better offering on the long distance side. More creativity along the likes of Mobilicity and Public Mobile with their unlimited LD packages.

Conclusion

So it seems to me that Chatr is simply a copy of what’s already there in market – no real surprises and nothing innovative here, its essentially Rogers response to a space that they do not play very well in. Do I blame them, no! This was in the works for a some time and while it provides an additional choice for consumers it also adds to the confusion.

Also read – 5 important things to know about Canadian cell phone plans

Yale Holder is president of MyTerms Network . Together with Kye Husbands and Paul Peic, he created myCELLmyTERMS, a Toronto-based company that helps cell phone users negotiate wireless plans with independent dealers.

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  • Yele Holder, I have to add on what you have written.
    The Truth of matter is that the big Canadian mobile companies such as Rogers, Telus, and Bell have been very arrogant to customers and have been gorging Canadian Customers with one of the world highest Mobile phone rates. They have also been very dismissive of their new competitors, Mobilicity, Windmobile, Public Mobile etc. Worst Yet, companies like Rogers have assumed that most of its chatr customers are stupid and insulted customers intelligence by introdcing the cheapest two band phones in their chatr line up. Now their competitors for the same price as chartr’s garbage have introduced multiband multi featured phones |Better Value for the Buck. Farther yet they have introduced phone plans unbeatable by Chatr. Most Chatr customers ended up paying exorbitant phone bills different from what chatr had claimed to be unlimited. Compared to Kudoos, were people paid bills of what they expected. Chatr customers are not happy cutomers. Both Chatr and its parent company Rogers are very notorious for over billing. Like some one said, why is it that phone companies never seem to make mistakes and under bill customers They always make mistakes and over bill.

    So you see, many are excited about the unlimited plans, by these new phone companies, cause they assume that their phone bill is going to be finite.

    Yesterday I went to the local Mobilicity store in Vancouver. Sales were very brisk Infact, they had run out of the popular Totem w660 phone. (A very good phone with both touch screen and buttons. It is a chinese product from a company called longcheer that is ten times better than any of CHATR phone at same price). There was no surprise to find that many of the customers getting mobilicity where former CHATR subscribers. I heard one customer swearing at chatr and claiming it to be the worst mistake he had ever made. This fella traveled to Europe and discovered that his phone had only two bands. And these Bands do not work in Europe. Another Chatr Customer was asking if he could port his chatr number to mobilicity and what concessions he would get. And another and another were also CHATR customers. Then there were those that were just buying the phones without plans. Also Present were those that were buying just the sim Cards because they had former unlocked rogers phones. So you see Rogers may have underestimated its customers base.
    The next day I decided to visit the windmobile store expecting to see the same. I was surprised to find that here were no customers. Not even one. I asked the staff at windmobile some questions, the staff were disorganized and had no product and services knowledge of their brand. They did not have any phones in stock. They were not even aware of when the next phone shipments would arrive. They were not even aware that a new competitor named mobilicity had arrived in town.
    It suffice to say, that when i checked the windmobile website, I could see that they too have run out of stock for certain Phones. I would think that this is a good indicator for companies especially Rogers to be worried. I would also assume that since windmobile came to vancouver before mobilicity, the same excitement that mobilicity has, was also enjoyed by windmobile.
    The surprising thing is that both Windmobile and mobilicity have negotiated roaming agreements with rogers.
    As for buying stocks in these new phone companies, I ran into a brick wall. Discovered that windmobile is owned by privately held Globalive which is also owned by ORASCOM of Egypt They dont trade in Canada and are Global. As for mobilicity and parent company Dave wireless, stock information was inconclusive considering Dave raise its money in the USA not in Canada.

    What remains to be seen is what the BIG three phone companies are going to do, and also whether these new competitors are going to survive.

  • Just to add on There are numerous websites on both Facebook and private forums who are “CHATR SUCKS subscribers” That is they hate chatr.

  • Annoyed Customer

    I was using Chatr for couple of months on a pre paid basis. They have a policy of renewing the monthly charges on the 28th of the month even if your renewal date is later 28th of the month. This is never explained to customer. Customers are expected to read.I would expect the sales person to inform you about this, rather than leave it to customer. If the customer misses it Chatr has an opportunity of making money. Its a question of ethics

    But the practices is what is questionable. Chatr give couple of numbers to call to cancel the connection. These numbers are busy most of the time or they are closed. I made repeated attempts to call and cancel my connection, as there was no one I could speak with, they ended by charging my card. When I did manage to get hold of them the next day, they refused to refund my money. Chatr is earning my misleading customers, and charging for service customers do not use.

    Chatr conduct of business is unethical and practices even more deploreable. I will do all I can to discourage people from using Chatr.

  • Peter smith

    What’s with all the h8ting. Been using Chatr with an unlocked iPhone. It’s awesome. 35$ a month and talk all u want on an iPhone!!!! Come on that’s sweet! Sure no 3G or edge but I don’t care, I use wifi at work and home and just about everywhere else. In Quebec there is even less competition then the rest of Canada. We have public mobile and that’s it, but they use CDMA and that’s no good for my iPhone 4.. No wind or others, we here in Quebec are being price raped like crazy by Rogers bell and tellus. At least Chatr is a step in the right direction. True public mobile is cheaper but they still don’t cover Chateauguay even though their site says it should have been completed by now.

  • jackie smith

    I have had Chatr for 7 months now and I’m thrilled. They’ve changed the price. 25/mo for unlimited talk province wide (limited text and 25c for vmail retrieval) you can, however get your msgs free from a land line. The other plan is 35/mo and includes everything, I mean everything unlimited and canada wide. (No data.. but who cares, I have my laptop)
    My calls never drop, they’re clear and I can talk as long as I want and text my heart out.

    As far as the comment about the renewal date.. Not happening to me my renewal date is the 14th of the month and has stayed that way.

    In short this is the best no BS deal around, period!!!!! If I could get an unlocked I phone I could put a chatr card in I would but for now the Nokia C3(the most expensive chatr phone) that sells normally for 100 I got for 69 at Zellers. It’s a great phone, looks similar to a blackberry and is really easy to text on. It has wi fi and a great cam/video and big bonus I have a 4 gig micro sd card that goes in and I can upload all my music and bigger bonus I can use any of those songs as my ringtone free. It even has an fm radio. I can get the audio cable and plug into my car and play my mp3s in the car too .. Chatr you’re awesome.. I know it’s owned by Rogers .. Why anyone else would have anything else other than Chatr is beyond me.

  • Robert Bailey

    Whats with all the Chatr hate, I’m not a big fan of Rogers because I had all 4 of their services and every month there would be billing errors that would takes me hours to correct and just have to deal with them again the following month, that and their gouging prices had me cancel them entirely. I replace my cable internet with Teksavvy cable which just resells Rogers but their prices are better and the main selling point was they had great caps (300gb) or an unlimited option and with Rogers changing their packages I got a free 14Mbps upgrade (paying for 15Mbps now getting 24Mbps), also Teksavvy doesn’t have a usage monitor in effect so even the the 300gb cap plans are unlimited until they apply a usage monitor and its been over 6 months now for me. As for cable and home phone I figured I would just drop them entirely and rely on a cell phone (altho Teksavvy does resell Bell plain old telephone service (POTS) for very cheap and even cheaper if u bundle but I just don’t have a strong need for a landline) and as for cable now that I’ve got unlimited usage for internet (bandwith) I can download/steam anything good that gets broadcasted in North America including Europe and many other countries and I bundle that with a cheap Netflix subscription, and also can download/steam any old/new movie at will so since I dropped them 6-12 months ago I’ve had even more to watch then normal with only having to drop $7 approx on netflix (and could even do with that too) compared to the $120ish a month I was paying ‘Robbers’ for the Rogers VIP TV package which comes with TMN which Netflix kills. Now onto my final service which is the main topic here, cellular phone service which initially I had went with Mobilicity (because at the moment I had no knowledge of Chatr) and wasn’t very pleased I couldn’t use my iphone with them cause of the 1900mhz CDMA sepctrum all these bargin brands are using, so I bought a cheap totem phone off them for a lil over $100 but realized immediately they service was absolutely horrible in south Mississauga even though their coverage map showed that area is covered and beyond up to Oakville. I could get very erratic service outside of my home but no where inside, was even trying to find just 1 lil sweet spot I could just leave the phone at but no service anywhere inside my home so they were useless and returned for a refund. I assumed wind who had a similar coverage map and same band would probably have similar results I googled a little and found my savior, a sub Rogers company named Chatr which was created to compete and try and push out the other discount brands (lol good luck with that as I hear GTA has solid service unlike my experience) but regardless I was excited because it was obviously operating on Rogers cell network and my gsm iphone would be usable and I would get unlimited talk for a very reasonable price. Been with them for 6-8 months now and haven’t looked back, no over billing which was a concern since it was a rogers sub company but things have been great. Also with being able to use my iphone I just install a sweet app call Text Plus which even gives you your own free local # and you can send/recieve text messages for free so I didn’t need to bump to a higher plan for txt and with the free 50 txt included my my lower tier it is sufficient for when I’m not near wifi (which 90% of the time I am). Only thing I would like is a little data which Chatr has added 100mb but it would bump my plan up $20 and I can’t justify a $20 increase for 100mb of data (altho I would get unlimited text, Canada wide calling, and the 100mb of data but the other 2 are features I don’t need only the data). I’m excited with the new iphone 4s release cause it seems to have both bands in it so I can swap over and take advantage of the better packages that public/wind/mobilicity offer with data, I’m just hoping that they have improved their networks a lot since my last trial with Mobilicity, I’ll probabaly try the other 2 first.

    • mrcanada976

      “their prices are better and the main selling point was they had great caps (300gb) or an unlimited option”

      I dont know of any reasonably priced Rogers wireless plan that offers unlimited or 300 Gb of data. I dont even know any land-based internet providers that give you 300Gb, maybe Shaw Extreme.

  • Mike

    Absolutely sucks. Rogers is using VoIP over their data channels. If network busy then calls don’t ring but get missed call message. Call quality worse than Skype. Threw my Nokia in garbage.

  • Bill

    I was with rogers since 1996, have 4 accounts (whole family). Their service becoming worse and worse. Last year I had a few problems with overcharging, over billing, network problems, charges for text mssgs while I have text included in my plan. I’ve spent hours on the phone with rogers tech, billing, other “specialists” – it feels like it’s bunch of idiots that can’t or don’t want to find a problem, instead they bouncing calls between tech, iphone, billing, supervisor, etc. then you have to wait days and call again to see if problem fixed (more often – not). First few days of 2012 New Year and another problem. I’ve noticed that in first couple days of my billing cycle most of my minutes included in plan are gone. Again after 25 min on the phone they informed me that there’s nothing can be done or checked until next billing cycle. I feel that they will hit me with another $200 for “extras”. It’s obvious – they can’t gent new customers because their plans suck – so they decided to rip off existing (and loyal for many years) customers. Can’t wait when my contract with rogers ends in a few month – this will be the last day I deal with them. People – whatever you do – DO NOT get into any contract with these crooks – ROGERS SUCKS, it’s the WORST company on the market!!!

  • Debi

    Rogers has no customer service, they are unaware of their own policies and often give inaccurate information. I’ll take any other provide than Rogers, Fido

  • Mike Brown

    I’m happy with a simple phone from chatr I call in a zone from Hamilton to toronto with a good network monthly price and when I bugged the kiosk kids they always helped me. It was reasonably priced samsung with a pull out qwerty keyboard My calls are clear and I’ve never got an extra charge. they gave me 60$ credit over 6 months which helped with the nickel and dimeing on calling the message center. I aient fixing what isn’t broke that rogers network is real clear without the dead spots of virgin

  • Debb

    I have been with Chatr for over a yr. No problems. I have upgraded to the $45. plan to see if I like it, so far so good. Calls are clear and I got $80 in credit incentives. Can’t complain.

  • Lisa

    Chatr is the S%%T.. I have no problems.. And being in a chatr zone is sweet no worries about long distance, no dropped calls.. It sucks ya when ur not in a chatr zone but with my plan unlimited texting no need to call when i will just text!!! I will never go back to any cell provider with a 1,2 or 3 year plan. I will always stay with Chatr!!!!!

  • Alvin

    I am going to take a chance and try out Chatr. I just wanted to point out that Wind Mobile is a very poor choice and I would advise anyone to stay away from them. Their prices may seem attractive but their service is the worst I have ever come across. I got caught out with their tab fees and unfair billing, and was glad to get out of it altogether.

  • Earthdave

    After getting screwed by a pay-as-you go plan ( 7 Eleven’s Speakout), I tried chatr. Over 10 months, I was very satisfied with my $25/month basic plan. No surprises. And I got $10 credits every month for paying by Autopay, which I then used to pay the last few months I was on the plan. I only cancelled because I left Canada permanently. Note: in France I pay 2€ per month for phone service and never run out! Canadian offerings are a rip-off.

  • So Concerned

    Go to Europe…data caps??? What a joke, 1st-2nd world country and we have the highest cellular rates “IN THE WORLD”. Common CRTC stop taking lobbyist bribes.

  • WPalmer

    I have always had pay as you go, (Fido), then Chatr came along a friend introduced me to it, Fido had ripped me off so, so many times,
    As soon as my credits hit $40 Fido would mysteriously find a problem with my credit card, and I would lose all my credits, this happened several times.I had no problem using my card anywhere else and no alert from Master Card. ( there could not be, I never run up debt, never have)
    So I finally cancelled the auto pay method and went back to paying manually each month.
    After being totally assured that I could pay either at Rogers or Fido, once I paid at Rogers only to find my service disconnected at the month end, again all the stored credits gone, repeated Phone calls to Fido, I had to pay them for the months service again, But they actually verified that they had received payment through Rogers!! but neither Rogers or Fido would reimburse me or restore my credits. Even the credit card company could not get these thieves to reimburse me.
    So Enough already!!… Chatr had just come to town
    That was the end for me. I have been with Chatr ever since, no problem so far.
    There are serious problems in the TV/internet/cell world in Canada both with the high priced service and the customer service itself..
    The government who supposedly control this part of our lives sit like the numpties they are and wont even acknowledge the problems. Now that “boy george” is PM it might be a good idea to start tugging his ear to do something, Anyone who has travelled around the world will tell you that Canada has the most expensive and worst communications service there is by far.

  • RastaMonk

    Chatr = Rogers = Crook.
    Rogers is a scam. 15 Years ago, they tricked me into signing up their package Cable and landline phone (they were reselling Bell then). And then simply charged me all kind of extras … Refusing to deal with unethical company like Rogers, I said goodbye to them and went back to Bell. They tried to extort penalty fees from me. I ignored them. 10 years later I found out they actually used a cheap collection agency to slam a record on my credit profile. I didn’t know that because all the credit card company ignored the record – cos that’s the only negative record and an insignificant amount. I have excellent credit all along.
    Recently, they bought Mobilicity and I was forced to move to Chatr as a result. Legally, they are obliged to maintain the contract I have with Mobilicity. What they did? They disabled MMS service on my phone to try to milk more money from me (they wanted me to subscribe to their exorbitant Data Plan). MMS is part of text messaging, never a part of Data Internet Plan. They agreed I am entitled to it. They admitted the service was deliberately disabled … Basically: “I robbed the feature from you, so what?” Does anyone know what to do with this unethical giant called Rogers (and their associated companies such as Chatr)? I have no clue … Perhaps boycotting them is the only way. Spread the words. People’s Power is the only way.

    Someone suggest Class Action. Forget it. Talk to a lawyer, you will know why? Class action does not work in Canada. Our legal system is originated from the dinosaur English system that does not support Class Action. Why so? In US, anyone can start a class action without worry of costs. In canada, the court will make you pay the costs. And Rogers is a resourceful giant, they will bankrupt you before you even know what is happening? Our governmental system is outdated and corrupted … It basically favours the rich and politically well connected. Rogers is one such entity.

    The existing system is very tolerant & forgiving to those with money. This is another reason why Canada is a paradise for rich white collar criminals.

    Enough said. I think the only solution left is to boycott Rogers and Chatr in this case … Go with Bell. I never have problem with Bell, ever, except for price.

    People’s Power. Spread the words.