Our Dollar May be Stronger, But Wireless is no Bargain - Will the iPhone Come to Canada?

Here's another post I've been wanting to write since coming back from VON, and I'm glad I waited. Anyone who knows me is familiar with my seemingly odd habit of hardly ever using my cell phone when I'm on the road, especially in the U.S. I know it defeats the purpose of have a mobile phone, but I seem to manage just fine.

While Americans take it for granted that cell phone usage is practically free, that's far from the case in Canada. I may seem like a voice in the wilderness when I try to explain this when I'm in the States, but now I've got some great backup to support my story. I've got two items to share with you on this front, and if you're wondering about the high cost of cell phone service in Canada, you'll find these well worth reading.

First is a terrific post from Friday by colleague and fellow Canadian blogger, Alec Saunders. Alec and I were at VON last week in Boston, and he's a much better technology adopter than me. We're seeing a proliferation of mobile VoIP solutions right now - I've posted about some, and Alec has posted quite a bit more.

Alec's post is a great case study in how a Canadian can use these various solutions to keep their cell phone costs down when travelling in the U.S. Most travelers routinely get local SIM cards to reduce their mobile costs, but as Alec explains, you can take the savings to a whole other level by using solutions such as Mobivox and Truphone. He's got the right idea here, and I plan to follow his lead when I travel next to the States. Great workaround, Alec!

On this note, by the way, I'll steer you to a panel I moderated at VON last week about adding mobility to Skype, which Alec attended. Mobivox, Truphone and others provided a rich perspective on the various ways you can cut mobile costs with Skype. These are all companies to watch, especially iSkoot, who is partnering with Skype on 3 Skypephone, which just launched last week.

Secondly, there was a timely article in today's Globe & Mail about the iPhone's pending launch in Canada. The article brings to light a number of issues that illustrates how the market up here is different, and how the iPhone would be a very expensive proposition based on our existing rate plans.

The print edition of this article provides detailed comparisons of rate plans for Canada, the U.S. and the E.U., and you'll just have to take my word that Canadian rate plans are simply not competitive. You can be sure that Apple is concerned that our expensive service plans will dampen demand for the iPhone, especially when Canadians can see how much cheaper it is to have all these goodies in the U.S.

So, we may have a stronger dollar right now, but this is not a great market for something as game-changing as the iPhone. Apple is setting a precedent for a handset vendor to dictate market terms to the mobile operators, and it will be interesting to see how Rogers plays this card. Regardless of how it unfolds, this article is a big picture exclamation point on what's driving Alec Saunders to do what he's doing - and you can be sure that others will follow.

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