Telus announces move into North

UPDATED Aug. 28. Telus is coming. The telecommunications giant announced its entry into Whitehorse and Yellowknife wireless markets this morning.

UPDATED Aug. 28.

Telus is coming.

The telecommunications giant announced its entry into Whitehorse and Yellowknife wireless markets on Monday.

As of Sept. 6, northerners will be able to sign up for Telus cellphone plans at the same prices available elsewhere in Canada.

“We’re really excited to be offering all of our wireless services to the North,” said Andrea Goertz, a spokesperson for the company.

Telus is highlighting its new SharePlus wireless plans for potential customers.

The base plan is $35 per month if you bring your own phone, or $45-$55 per month if you get a phone from Telus, according to the rates listed on the company’s website. The plan includes unlimited talk and text to and from anywhere in Canada.

On top of that you can buy between 250 MB and 11 GB of data for between $15 and $85 per month. The data can be shared between up to five devices on the same plan.

For every Yukon customer who purchases a Telus phone and signs up for their wireless service by May 6, 2014, the company will donate $25 to the Yukon Child Development Centre, up to a maximum of $25,000.

A similar donation campaign was announced for the N.W.T.

Beginning in September northerners will be able to sign up for the new service by calling Telus or visiting its website.

Telus stores will also open in Whitehorse and Yellowknife before the end of the year.

A lease was signed this morning for the Whitehorse location, but the company has not released details, said Goertz.

Today, Yukon customers can choose between Bell Mobility and Latitude Wireless for local cellphone numbers.

Bell also offers plans to Yukoners at the same rates offered across Canada, and in fact, the plans are quite similar to what Telus promises to bring.

Andrew Robulack, a Yukon technology writer and consultant, calls Telus’s move a “shell game.”

“It’s a minor move in a much bigger game,” he said. “It’s kind of like a pawn move or a pawn sacrifice in a chess game. The North is being thrown a token, which is a purported degree of competition that will better serve Telus and Bell in the long run in terms of their discussions with the federal government about what’s going to happen with competition on a grander scale.”

Telus and Bell built the North’s wireless network together, and Telus customers have long been free to roam on the Bell network for no extra charge, said Robulack.

It’s a win-win for Telus and Bell, because Telus will gain some new customers and pay Bell for access to them, he said. And it strengthens their argument to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission that Canada is already competitive, and it should not let U.S. giant Verizon enter the market.

Meanwhile, Latitude Wireless, jointly owned by NorthwesTel and the Dakwakada Development Corporation, has announced what it calls the “first truly flexible plans in Canada.”

With those plans, instead of guessing what your usage will be, you start out each month in the lowest tier and move up as you exceed usage limits.

It’s designed to help customers avoid costly overage fees, said Eric Clement, spokesperson for the company.

He would not comment on Telus’s move into the North, but said, “we did design these plans to be competitive with national offerings. We’re obviously trying to offer the best value in the market.”

A series of recent decisions by the CRTC have made it possible for wireless competition to come to the North.

A 2011 decision helped to lift NorthwesTel’s monopoly over the 867 area code.

More recently, the commission slashed the rates that NorthwesTel is allowed to charge companies wishing to access its fibre-optic connection to the south.

These decisions were not a factor in Telus’s move into the North, said Goertz.

“Telus competes across Canada, and we made our decision to come into the Northwest Territories based on the growth that we see, the future prosperity of the region, and we feel that we’ll make a fantastic partner for securing that economic future.”

Contact Jacqueline Ronson at

jronson@yukon-news.com

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