Why is Canada More Expensive than Rwanda for Mobile Data Access?

Yes, you read that title correctly. The price of mobile data access is higher in Canada than it is in Rwanda. In fact when I first looked into this in April of 2007, some mobility providers in Canada were charging rates almost 21 times higher than Terracom in Rwanda. Mobile data rates are also significantly cheaper than Canada in Egypt, Botswana, Vietnam and Bolivia. In fact, why limit comparisons to things terrestrial? Sending data using a Canadian mobility provider costs more than sending the same amount of data from the Hubble Space Telescope! Canadian rates are so high that I almost have to wonder if mobility providers in Canada are deliberately attempting to grab a big chunk of cash at the expense of killing off their own market and taking down one of IT’s hottest growth areas at the same time.

The use of mobile devices for applications is currently exploding. Even exterprise software giants such as SAP are committing themselves to adding mobile functionality to their offerings now or in the very near future. Internet domains within the .MOBI TLD are being registered at the rate of tens of thousands per week and Google, a company that seems to know what it’s talking about, has declared that growth in mobile data services is so important that it has developed its own platform (Android) to take advantage of the huge opportunities out there.

Canada, as a nation, can be described as large, wealthy, and technologically advanced. We have a long history of excellence in communications technology, perhaps borne out of necessity. Canadian research powerhouses such as Northern Telecom and Research In Motion continue to advance our national state-of-the-art, as well as the world’s. Mobile communication today, along with the network engineering and security they require, is quite possibly developing faster than any other part of IT. We develop incredibly advanced technology in this country, technology that much of the country cannot afford to use due to greedy and short sighted price gouging by mobile service providers. Bell, Rogers, Telus, Fido, all should be helping Canada to stay on the leading edge of mobile application delivery, but instead, they have chosen to make fat profits even if it means crippling the industry and destroying its promise. This is, plainly put, a national disgrace.

In my posts later on this week I’ll discuss specific cases where Canadian data rates have shut homegrown companies out of our own markets, and I’ll have suggestions about what individual Canadians can do until mobile data pricing is reduced to sane levels. I’ll also look at how the CRTC (which is governed by the Canadian Telecommunications Act) has failed to address these issues.

Mobile data offers opportunities that should be Canada’s for the taking. We have to prevent corporate greed from doing this much damage to our future.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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