Freedom Mobile has been busy.
The Shaw-owned wireless carrier has expanded its network reach in Ontario and several parts in British Columbia. Freedom is known for low-cost plans that include large amounts of data, which Canadians are pining for.
Recently, Freedom’s main competitors, Rogers, Bell, and Telus, have offered plans to their customers that feature ‘unlimited’ or an ‘infinite’ amount of data for roughly $75 CAD per month. This has spurred a level of wireless competition in Canada that hasn’t been seen since 2008 when all the new carriers were granted a license to operate.
In 2010, when Wind Mobile (now Freedom Mobile), Mobilicity (now part of Rogers), and Public Mobile (now part of Telus) went live with ‘unlimited talk, text and data’ wireless options, all of the carriers offered a ‘port-in credit’ to those who switched from the Big 3. It worked but was met with frustration due to lack of network connectivity.
These days, just like faded jeans from the 1980s, it seems the ‘port-in’ credit offer is back and the competition is fierce.
Rogers’ sub-brand Fido recently kicked off an offer directed at Freedom customers to switch that provided an iPhone XR for $0 upfront on a $75 plan for 10GB. Freedom, within 2-hours, countered with a ‘limited-time’ promo for Rogers and Fido customers with a $0 iPhone XR, which was already in-market offer but offered at a lower cost with more data, specifically $55/15GB plan.
During an interview with MobileSyrup, Paul McAleese, President of Wireless at Shaw Communications, stated, “This bully tactic just didn’t work. It backfired spectacularly on Rogers.”
McAleese would not disclose a specific number as the company is currently mid-quarter. That said, he did confidently say “over the weekend, just the Saturday and Sunday, four times more Rogers customers left Rogers for Freedom than Freedom customers left for Rogers. This is despite the fact that they had a head start. This was a very busy weekend during back-to-school. It was a sizable number. Not in the hundreds. A sizable number.”
“I think we are seeing these tactics a little dated… A few years ago this was a very crude but effective tool,” said McAleese. “This was a reasonable tool for the incumbents but we’ve seen a really significant change because Freedom is a radically different company than it was a few years ago when Shaw bought it. We’ve invested billions of dollars to improve the network experience, our quality, distribution, our devices,” said McAleese.
One of the main reasons for the pop in subscribers over the weekend was Freedom’s ability to innovate, says McAleese.
“There is a complete lack of innovation for the customer from the incumbents. Freedom has led with the ‘Big Gig,’ ‘Big Binge,’ ‘Absolute Zero,’ but the response of the industry has been to copy a 2-year old plan from us and hope for the best. Canadian wireless penetration is at 91 percent while the United States is at 120 percent. There are still a lot of Canadians who do not own a phone. These tactics don’t do anything to expand the industry. They are predatory, they are targeted and have a bully level of intent,” said McAleese.
Since acquiring the company and its 940,000 wireless subscribers in 2016, Shaw recently reported Q3 2019 earnings with Freedom Mobile subscriber base hitting 1,578,355 wireless customers.
Its competitors, Rogers, has 10,708,000 wireless subscribers, with Telus coming in at 9.9 million wireless subscribers, while Bell has 9,630,313 total wireless subscribers.
“What is telling to me about the weekend is that Canadian consumers, given an opportunity and a moment to pause and think about how the market is playing out, will go in favour of the challenger,” said McAleese. “We continue to see from customers that they are making their decisions based on value and the value is just not there [with the incumbent carriers]. This weekend was a great indicator of that and possibly a sign of things to come.”