City Fido to ‘burbs’: you’re out .

Saturday, January 29th, 2005

WIRELESS I The unlimited calling plan is also gone

Peter Wilson

Once touted as a wireless home phone replacement for all Lower Mainlanders, City Fido is hanging up on most of the suburbs and abandoning its unlimited calling plan.

As of March 1, Surrey, Delta, Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam, Pitt Meadows, Maple Ridge, Langley, Aldergrove, Mission, Abbotsford and Chilliwack will no longer be served by City Fido.

New users of City Fido — now a part of Rogers Wireless — will charge new customers $45 a month for 750 anytime minutes or $65 a month for 1,500 minutes.

And if they leave the central coverage area they’ll have to pay 50 cents a minute extra on top of any long-distance charges.

Established customers with contracts will continue to get the old rates and service area for as long as they renew their contracts.

And Fido will continue to offer its regular cellular plans that don’t restrict users to the Vancouver core including the North Shore, Vancouver, Burnaby, New Westminster and Richmond.

“I think, in essence, they’re trying to kill City Fido,” telephone analyst Ian Angus, president of Toronto-based Angus TeleManagement Group said Friday. “At 50 cents a minute to call outside of the local area you’d have to be somebody rather strange to want the service.”

Fido president Alain Reaume, who is also an executive vice-president with Rogers, disagreed, saying in an interview that City Fido would now go from being a mass market to a niche product, aimed at young urbanites who rarely venture outside the city core.

“If you take somebody who lives in Surrey and works in downtown Vancouver and travels from time to time to Seattle or Portland, well, the new City Fido is probably not the best product for them,” said Reaume. “But for the person who lives in an apartment close to Stanley Park and works downtown and spends the weekend around town it would be a very good product.”

Reaume said that while City Fido worked well for his old company Microcell — since purchased by Rogers — it wasn’t economical for a larger player to continue the service.

“And as an executive vice-president for Rogers I have to take that into account now,” said Reaume.

Angus said that with the purchase of Microcell by Rogers — which intends to enter the home phone market with Internet telephones — Canada now has three cellular carriers who don’t want to compete with wireline phone rates or service.

He added that cellular is in danger of becoming an expensive side service rather than a potentially direct competitor for land-line phones.

Another Toronto telephone analyst, Brian Sharwood, a principal of the SeaBoard Group, said the only hope Canadians might have for lower cellular rates might lie now with Virgin Mobile Canada, which will be entering the market this year using Bell Canada‘s network.

“They can charge below what Bell is charging them if they feel that profit is not as important as getting the number of subscribers up and getting customers to understand the coolness of the Virgin name.”

Angus, however, disagreed, saying that Virgin’s market was primarily the prepaid youth market and that, in any case, they are owned 50 per cent by Bell.

© The Vancouver Sun 2005

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