Wind Mobile blows hot over Rogers’ Chatr

At the rate that Canadian mobile wireless service providers are popping up and offering new deals to consumers, you’d think the battle to bend the ears of cell phone users – and open their wallets – has gone to the dogs.

Well, hotdogs at least, in the case of major wireless company Rogers Communications Inc. and Egyptian-backed upstart Wind Mobile of Toronto.

On the very day that Rogers, the country’s largest company in the wireless space, unveiled its discount mobile-phone brand Chatr, Wind Mobile set up a stand selling $1 hotdogs a stone’s throw away from a Rogers’ store at the bustling Dundas Square in downtown Toronto.

While Wind promoters were handing out $1 hotdogs to a small line of people during Wednesday’s lunch hour, the Rogers team was presiding over a larger crowd at the square where the mobile company was holding a soccer ball kicking contest with the Ontario Soccer Association.

Ken Campbell, Wind Mobile CEO, was hoping passersby sinking their teeth into the juicy street meat would also take a bite at their offer of a $150 credit to Rogers, Fido or Chatr customers who switch over to his company’s services. “They chatter. We listen,” read the flyer being handed out.

Imitation is the best form of flattery

Cheap, no-fuss, no contracts, and unlimited voice and text plans have been the major bargaining chip of Wind and fellow newcomers Mobilicity and Public Mobile. Such plans appealed to low-income customers and immigrant communities seeking affordable long-distance rates and no-frills services.

Chatr’s launch in Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton and Ottawa could cut into that market. The line, which is not being sold in existing Rogers or Rogers Plus stores, has 16 mall kiosks in those locations and will also be offered by third-party dealers such as Best Buy, Wireless Wave, Zellers and Future Shop.

Chatr’s unlimited talk and text option costs $45 a month, close to the price offered by the other players. The service will be carried on the existing Rogers 3G wireless network… [Next Page]

Rogers appears to be “experimenting and introducing competition” into the budget wireless space, Campbell says. “We welcome competition. In this case, imitation is the best form of flattery.”

“Our service is set-up for great data speeds and unlimited data throughout our network, not like Chatr,” Campbell added.

Chatr will not subsidize handsets, and will only be available in the five urban centres for now.

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Mobilicity enters discussion on Chatr

Late last week, Mobilicity aired a formal warning to Rogers against launching the unlimited talk and text Chatr brand, according to a statement released by John Bitove, chairman at Mobilicity.

Bitove said Mobilicity’s legal counsel has served Rogers with a demand letter advising them of Mobilicty’s intentions to pursue legal action should it launch Chatr “in the manner that has been communicated thus far… [Next Page]

Chatr is designed to offer consumers voice and text services and unlimited pricing options without contracts within “defined Chatr zones.”

“We’ve been watching this niche but growing category closely and it’s clear that some Canadians want to use their handsets for voice and text only but want a network they can trust,” said Bitove in statement last week. At that time, the executive said he was considering filing a complaint with Competition Bureau Canada about Chatr. No spokesman for Rogers was available to provide comment on Chatr on yesterday.

Fair priced hotdogs and phone plans

Meanwhile at the hotdog stand, some bystanders appeared to be oblivious of what was being offered.

A man and woman who had just finished adding condiments to their hotdogs admitted they had not heard of Chatr. Both persons were Fido subscribers. Asked if he would consider switching to Wind, the man said “Yes if the deal is good.”

Another hotdog fanatic said Wind had the right idea.

“I think it’s pretty crazy. I think they’ll (Wind) get a lot of people switching if they offer that $150 credit,” said Lonny Knapp, production manager for St. Joseph Media in Toronto.

“People are so pissed off now at Bell and Rogers it’s not hard to imagine people going for this deal. But right now I’m more interested in the $1 hotdog I just got,” he said.

Nestor Arellano is a Senior Writer at ITBusiness.ca. Follow him on Twitter, read his blog, and join the IT Business Facebook Page.

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