Data Plans From Rogers: Stop The Insanity!

[This was originally published at Pocket PC Thoughts and Smartphone Thoughts, but I want to get it out to as many people as possible, so I’m publishing it here as well.]

While researching the HTC Touch that Rogers is releasing today, I came upon something that made my jaw drop: the “special” data plan pricing that Rogers is offering their customers.

In case you went blind looking at the sheer ridiculousness of the prices there, let me recap: the cheapest monthly fee is $15/month (keeping in mind $1 Canadian is about $1.05 USD now) and that gets you 2 megabytes. 2 FREAKIN’ MEGABYTES. What can you do with 2 MB of data? Perhaps if you stick to short, plain-text email messages, and you browsed WAP sites from 1999, you might be able to live with that.

Oh, if you go over, you’ll be charged $10 per 1 MB that you use. If you’re willing to pony up $60 per month, Rogers will graciously extend to you 30 whole MB of data transfer, and only charge you $7 per 1 MB over that amount. Isn’t that nice of them? If you want to get their biggest and best plan, $80 per month will get you a whole 200 MB of data, and if you go over you’ll only be charged $5 per 1 MB. Gosh! Golly! At those prices I can maybe even receive a few HTML messages or attachments per day on my Windows Mobile device.

Digging deeper, I looked at their data plans page (which renders horribly in Firefox I might add) and realized that Blackberry users are even worse off: $60 a month will only get you 25 MB of data. They have a Windows Mobile data plan page here as well, and I was baffled to see only one option offered, a new plan I had heard about a month or two ago: $65 per month for 1000 MB of data, and $1 per addition MB. What a minute…that’s almost (but not quite) reasonable. They recommend this for “tethered laptop use”. It’s certainly a massive cost savings when compared to the $80/200MB plan, but is it enough? No, not by a long shot.

Rogers, like most North American carriers, is constantly being battered by subscriber churn (a customer leaving for another wireless company) and desperately wants two things: to keep their customers from leaving, and to increase their ARPU (average revenue per unit); meaning the amount of money they make off each subscriber. Current data plans are a way to get a lot of money out of a small number of people. What Rogers and most of the carriers don’t seem to grasp is that there’s more money to be made overall if much larger numbers of users had less expensive data plans. Rogers seems content with charging 1000 people $100 a month instead of getting 10,000 people on a $20 a month plan.

Time and time again, I’ve had friends and family express interest in Windows Mobile devices, only to have them be scared away by the cost. And we’re not talking the cost of the device – it’s always the cost of the data plans. People are much more willing to spend $500 on a nice piece of hardware than spending $60 a month on data, year after year. Windows Mobile adoption is being crippled by the expensive data rate plans of Canadian carriers, and until they address the pricing issue, they’re not going to see Windows Mobile smartphones selling as well as they could be.