The Canadian Wireless Internet Scene Gets Interesting

The Canadian wireless market provides a unique situation in that Rogers is the only GSM wireless service provider. From the smartphone side there are four potential suppliers:

  • Apple, with its iPhone which requires GSM
  • RIM, whose WiFi -enabled 8×20 Blackberries require GSM to be able to use the UMA/GAN feature
  • Nokia, who basically only builds GSM-compatible devices
  • iSkoot with their Skypephone which requires GSM

Last fall I posted about the picture as Rogers was seeing it, pointing out that it was not simply a case of supporting the iPhone but rather looking at the other smartphone vendors as well when considering how Rogers would react to the availability of the iPhone. In essence providing an “unlimited” data plan would only be viable if Rogers’ other vendors also had similar opportunities for unlimited data plans. Several developments this week:

  • On Tuesday, Rogers announced that they had finalized a deal with Apple re the iPhone but provided no details, especially as to a launch date or data plans. However, it does mean that Apple and Rogers have agreed on at least the high level aspects of a data plan.
  • This morning I attended a Nokia N95 launch event where Rogers announced they would be launching next week the newer Nokia N95 8GB multimedia smartphone with many appealing features and an interesting service plan incorporating not only data but also North America’s first wireless video calling offering.
  • Crackberry.com has rumors about a forthcoming UMA/GAN-based service called Rogers Home Calling Zone (but it won’t launch May 6) as well as a tiered Blackberry data plan.

There is another factor at play in Canada. Later this month the CRTC will be auctioning off Advanced Wireless Services spectrum where new players have the ability to participate. Any new carrier will have to be supporting GSM for a variety of reasons; Rogers is moving over the same time period to forestall any market advantage a new carrier may have.

And in a recent Wired magazine article it was pointed out that AT&T’s genius in working with Apple was recognizing that “The iPhone would result in a surge of data traffic that would more than make up for any revenue it lost on content deals”.

It will be an interesting couple of months to watch the Canadian wireless market evolve. Competitive forces, as well as new revenue opportunities, from multiple directions are coming into play.

On Tuesday’s launch date I’ll post more details about the Nokia N95 8GB offering, the real trigger point for offering more realistic GSM-based mobile Internet plans to Canadians. But there’s more to the overall offering.

And the good news for Skype: Skype calling will be accessible on any of these platforms via either iSkoot and/or IM+ for Skype.

Tags: Rogers, iPhone, Apple, Blackberry, RIM, N95 8GB, Nokia, Skypephone, GSM, Canada wireless, CRTC, AWS Auction, iSkoot, IM+ for Skype

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About Jim Courtney

Bringing over thirty years' experience in the sales, marketing and management of cutting edge technology businesses.

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