Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Skype turning to junk, Canada deregulates celphones.

When in England, I used to buy phone cards to call overseas. They promised everything from a few dozen minutes to a few hundred minutes depending on the calling destination. They also seemed to rip you off of those minutes, drastically reducing the actual amount promised, or levying a heavy surcharge for each call made. Still, it was dramatically cheaper than calling direct from the land line.

I've been a Skype Internet phone user for over two years now. Before this week, I have never noticed a drastic difference in the price quoted and the price charged. But that's changed suddenly.
Before, when I spent two minutes on a call, I got charged for two minutes - or about four cents. Now, I spend two minutes on a call and get charged for about five minutes. Then there's the accidental calls, or the calls that don't work, or the answering maching, they used to not charge anything for a quick hangup.

I'm keeping my eyes on other options because the honesty features that attracted me to Skype in the first place is gone.
Hook you in and then screw you over.

I have a general wariness of all phone companies. While Skype may still be the cheapest way to call my family in Canada via telephone, it's not an irreplaceable product.

Moving on, the CRTC in Canada recently announced deregulation of the cell phone industry. This decision is much to the chigrin of established mobile phone companies.

"Opponents of deregulation, including some consumer groups and cable companies, argued at Parliamentary hearings that without restrictions, established telephone companies would drive out competitors by offering discounts, and then raise prices over the long term."

My counter argument is - As opposed to fleecing customers now by charging some of the highest mobile phone rates in the world?

While some smaller startups might get screwed, I highly doubt a company like Virgin would come into Canada and be intimidated by money-losing rates charged by established phone companies. We'll see who goes bankrupt first...

Throughout Europe, and much of Africa, I can buy a phone card for around ten bucks with some credit already on it. I can leave the country, not use the card for two years, return, and that credit will still be there.

As for Canada. I have to pay ten bucks a month, minimum, just to keep the phone running. Credit can be eaten up simply because it wasn't used from one month to the next.

In Europe, the percentage of people who have a mobile phone are well into the eighties.

In Canada, that proportion is much lower. The most recent data I could find said that 66.8% of Canadian households had at least one cell phone. But that's a household statistic, so it means much more than 33% of people don't have a mobile phone.

Here in Morocco, particularly in towns and cities, you'd be hard pressed to find a single person who didn't have a mobile. They now cost as little as $25.00, including the phone, a sim card and some credit. Unlike Canada, you don't have to pay monthly, it's pay as you go, literally. I could have twenty dollars in credit, leave the country, return five years later, turn on my phone, and still have that credit. Once or twice a year I top up with around a hundred bucks. I typically get eight months out of that hundred bucks, with an average of two or three short calls per day.

I'm cheering on deregulation. Thanks to affordable rates, most of the world have embraced the mobile phone far faster than Canadians have. It's time Canada caught up!

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