Verizon, spectrum, competition: what’s the big deal?

Over the past few weeks, we’ve heard a lot about the potential arrival of Verizon, and what it would mean for the Canadian wireless landscape should they choose to join us here in Canada. Amongst all the chatter, there have been several conflicting viewpoints and attempts by different groups and organizations to explain what exactly is going on and why Canadians should care.

To start, I want to be clear that at TELUS, we invite competition – from within Canada, the U.S., or anywhere else. If Verizon or any other company wants to come and set up shop here, I would be the first to welcome them and wish them the best of luck. However, it is troubling to see the unfair benefits they would receive as a new telecommunications company in Canada – benefits that are intended to lend small startup companies a helping hand as they establish themselves against incumbent players with brand recognition and other equity. These benefits were not intended for massive organizations, and particularly not one that has a market value seven times that of TELUS and three times as many customers as there are Canadians.

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TELUS has been vocal about our belief that the government should promote policies that are fair for all participants – be they a new entrant or a well-established Canadian telco. We have asked the government to amend its current policy, close the loopholes, and let us and our competitors – again be they new entrants or well-established Canadian telecos – get on with the business of building networks, acquiring bandwidth and serving our customers. Competition only works if we all play fair, so that’s what we’re asking for: a level playing field governed by rules that are equal for all participants.

Spectrum, competition, investment…to many Canadians the big deal is price

For myself as a TELUS team member, the issue with Verizon’s potential entry and our government’s policies that are offering 2-for-1 deals on spectrum is fairness – you can’t possibly have true competition if everyone isn’t playing by the same rules.

For many Canadian consumers, the hope is that the arrival of a big player like Verizon will mean that prices will go down – that it may cost less to own and operate a smartphone or tablet in Canada. Unfortunately, I don’t think that will happen if Verizon enters the Canadian wireless market. Verizon is a “premium” (read: high-cost) carrier – one of the most expensive in the U.S., in fact.  On an apples-to-apples comparison of identical iPhone plans, you can actually get three years of service with TELUS for what two years would cost with Verizon. In fact, according to an article in the Financial Post, by Dr. Mark Colgate, of the University of Victoria, a two-year talk and text plan plus 1 GB of data currently costs about 10 per cent more at Verizon than it does at TELUS.

In fact, the recent OECD report shows that when compared to other G7 countries, Canada lands in the middle in terms of cost. Compared to the U.S., Canada was less expensive in 12 out of 15 price models, and prices in our country have been on a downward trend in recent years. Most experts predict this trend won’t change dramatically one way or the other, regardless of any new entrants in the market.

TELUS doesn’t just win on price – we also win on quality. Our network covers 99 per cent of the population and our 4G LTE network, the fastest wireless technology available, reaches almost 80 per cent of our customers across the country. In comparison, a recent report from the European Commission highlighted that there is virtually no rural access to 4G LTE across Europe – the same 4G LTE service that is available to 80 per cent of all Canadians. Essentially, only one in four of our European counterparts that has access to the kind of technology that we take for granted because companies like ours have made an investment in quality and a commitment to ensuring that technology is made available to all Canadians at a fair price.

Canada has only four subscribers per square kilometer, so our geography makes attaining this kind of service very challenging. However, it hasn’t stopped us, and we are incredibly proud of the $102 billion we have invested in our networks. We are also incredibly proud of the fact that we are able to deliver service, reliability, and coverage at a price that recent studies have shown to be reasonable and fair.

To TELUS the big deal is YOU

Our network isn’t the only way we have invested in Canada and Canadians. When it comes to coverage, speed and reliability, yes, Canadian wireless companies have invested more than any other country in the world, and we do so at essentially double the rate of our global peers.

However, we have also invested in the communities where we work, live and serve. Thanks to the support of our customers, TELUS has been able to help build strong healthy sustainable communities. Our team members and retirees have contributed more than $300 million to charitable and not-for-profit organizations and volunteered 4.8 million hours of service to our local communities since 2000. I sit on one of our eleven Community Boards across Canada and have had the honour to work with a number of the 2,800 grassroots charitable projects that TELUS has supported around the country and across the globe.

This is the real contribution and the true investment that TELUS has been privileged to make in Canada and in our fellow citizens. We employ 30,000 Canadians, enable 7.7 million customer connections, and Canadians have trusted our company to deliver shareholder value for individual investors and large institutions for years. We intend to maintain that trust, earn our customers’ loyalty and to keep investing in our country for the future.

The truly great thing about being in the telecommunications business is that we get to offer our customers so much more than leading-edge technology or the latest device. We are offering Canadians freedom: the freedom to do what they want when they want, and to live their lives in a way that puts them first. When you stop and think about it, it’s a pretty powerful thing, and everything we are doing at TELUS – through our network builds, our acquisition of spectrum, and our exceptional customer experience – supports that pursuit of freedom.

TELUS will keep on delivering freedom to Canadians regardless of who joins us in the marketplace. In spite of all the speculation and rampant misinformation, one thing remains true for TELUS: we have YOU to support and that will always be our number one priority.

For more on this very important topic, please visit CanadaPlayFair.com. Here you will find additional information about wireless service in Canada as well as a petition, urging competition under fair terms in Canada. I encourage you to read the additional materials available on the site and to consider signing our petition requesting a level playing field in Canada. 

All the best,

Senior Vice-President, Chief Communications and Sustainability Officer