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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