The myth of MVNO savings

Yesterday, Michael Geist released a podcast that plays more as an infomercial to promote Ting Mobile, a Canadian based company that operates as a Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) in the United States.

According to the podcast, Ting’s services ride on the Sprint network in the US, but claims that Bell, TELUS and Rogers have not been willing to ‘play ball’ with Ting in Canada. It is not clear whether Ting attempted to strike a deal with the smaller players in Canada, just as it did in the US. Indeed, later in the podcast, Noss says that only ‘2 of the 3 turned us down’. There was no follow-up asking about the third.

Ting’s principal, Elliott Noss, says that the prices Canadians pay are ‘heinous’, yet an examination of Ting’s own prices shows that Canadians already pay less than what Ting charges its customers.

I took a look at the CRTC’s service baskets, defined in its Communications Monitoring Report, and checked Ting’s rates versus offers publicly available on Canadian service provider websites.

At the CRTC’s price basket level 1, Ting would save Canadians 13 cents per month. For every other basket, Ting isn’t close.

Noss made a number of other assertions that were unchallenged by Professor Geist, such as a statement that many countries have regulated mandatory access to MVNOs. This is simply not true. While the podcast is certainly entertaining to listen to, too frequently, the guest’s assertions are left unchecked and simply don’t stand up to scrutiny.

Noss claims [around the 28:30 mark in the podcast]: “Michael, I will tell you right here on this podcast, look we’re an MVNO in the US; it’s 10 times the market. If I could have right now an offer from the CRTC for liberalized MVNO on exactly the terms that we want and we couldn’t enter the market, I would take it in a second.” In reality, Ting operates in the US where MVNO’s are not mandated by the regulator and it offers services at prices higher than what Canadians are already paying.

The CRTC should be cautious and Commissioners should deeply probe assertions that are made later today when Ting’s parent company, Tucows, appears. And frankly, we should demand more critical inquiry from our academics who are asked to inform Canadians on these issues.

2 thoughts on “The myth of MVNO savings”

  1. [— edited —]. Everything you state should be taken as likely false, or at least, misleading. I’m pretty sure you won’t allow this to be posted!

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