Canada's Rogers Won't Do Unlimited Data for iPad

Pre-ordering for the iPad has begun, but the enthusiasm faded as Rogers released its iPad data plan rates. The disappointment over no unlimited data package could change if Bell or Telus enter the space.

Apple Inc. started taking online orders for the iPad through the Canadian Apple Store on Monday and Rogers Communications Inc. followed up by announcing iPad data plans that go into effect when the iPad starts shipping on May 28.

The good news is the month-to-month plans do not require a contact. The bad news is that none of the plans offer unlimited data usage.

Two plans were announced on the Rogers RedBoard blog: $15 per month for 250MB and $35 per month for 5GB. Both plans include unlimited, free access to all Rogers WiFi Hot Spots.

The plans do not apply to Rogers Wireless subsidiary, Fido Solutions Inc. The iPad will not available through Fido at the launch, states the post.

Rogers says the tablets are a new category of product and "it's too early to say if customers will use more or less data than they do for the iPhone," but the company remains optimistic that the 250MB/5GB plans "will be more than enough for virtually all of our customers."

99.8 per cent of iPhone customers and 95.6 per cent of rocket stick/embedded laptop customers use less than 5GB of data each month, states the post.

But if a customer does run over their data bucket, they won't get penalized with higher rates or additional fees.

"We have also structured our plans so customers never have to pay overage charges. If a customer runs through their data bucket before their month is up, they have the option of signing up for a new bucket and the month starts anew," stated a Rogers spokesperson in an e-mail interview.

Apple noted on its Web site that a $20 shared plan was also available from Rogers, but the note was made in error and removed. "The reference to the $20 iPad sharing plan is false and was incorrectly posted on Apple's web site," stated the Rogers spokesperson.

The data plans have stirred up significant backlash from Canadian consumers. A Twitter search using the keywords "Rogers" and "iPad" provided a continual stream of Tweets, mostly negative, throughout the day.

One key complaint was the lack of a shared plan that would allow customers to add the iPad to their existing iPhone data plan. Another was the lack of an unlimited data plan similar to the US$30 unlimited package offered by AT&T Inc. to iPad users in the States.

But Mark Tauschek, director of IT research at Info-Tech Research Group Ltd., wasn't surprised by the lack of an unlimited plan. "Rogers has pretty emphatically said they will never do unlimited data plans," he said.

Tauschek expects higher data consumption from the iPad than the iPhone, but said the 5GB data plan should still suffice for the majority of users. Less than five per cent might roll over their iPad data buckets in less than one month, he said.

The fact that Rogers isn't charging overage fees makes sense because users won't necessarily have contracts, so the company wouldn't be in the position to charge overages, he said. The plans are "almost pay-as-you-go for the iPad," he said.

But the iPad isn't locked to carriers, he said. "I'd be interested to see if Bell and Telus are allowed to print up a bunch of micro SIMs and compete, because the only thing I can see stopping them is Apple," said Tauschek.

Bell Canada and Telus Corp. will have an opportunity to get some headway in the market if they enter with cheaper data plans, he said. And there are only two things from stopping them: stamping out the micro SIMs and/or Apple giving exclusivity to Rogers, he said.

Carmi Levy, an independent analyst based in Toronto, expects to hear an iPad announcement from Bell before May 28. The Rogers announcement opens up a "relatively large door for Bell" to deliver a different strategy, he said.

"If Bell does include an unlimited data usage option in its rate structure, it could provide a differentiating factor for Canadian consumers looking to unlock the true potential from their new iPad," he said.

But Levy gives credit to Rogers for following AT&T's lead with month-to-month plans that don't require contracts. "Canadian consumers and businesses have not been shy in expressing their displeasure with long lock-in periods and onerous contract terms," he said.

"By making these non-contractually bound, they certainly do make it easier to take advantage of 3G-based iPad service, but at the same time, the overall structure and amount of data you can use within the context of these arrangements is somewhat disappointing," he said.

The lack of an unlimited plan will prevent Canadians from unlocking the potential of the iPad as a data-rich device, he said. "When you have no unlimited option, you are always going to be watching to make sure you don't go over your monthly limit," he said.

"This will be very good for Rogers' bottom line, but it will not be good for consumers' bottom line, and unfortunately, it does represent a bit of a missed opportunity to change the way wireless services are sold in this country," he said.

Bell hasn't made any announcements on whether or not it will release iPad data plans. "All I can say is that our network is capable of supporting the iPad," stated Bell Canada spokesperson Julie Smithers in an e-mail.

Canada 3.0, a two-day forum on Canada's digital future that kicked off in Stratford, Ont. has adopted the moonshot that all Canadians will be able to do anything online by 2017.

David Eaves, a public policy entrepreneur, open government activist and negotiation expert, referred to the Rogers announcement from Canada 3.0 in a Tweet earlier today. "The disconnect between #can30 and reality: Rogers #ipad plans: $15/250MB and $35/5 gigs. AT&T has unlimited for $30. Moonshot far away," tweeted Eaves.

Follow me on Twitter @jenniferkavur.

For comprehensive coverage of the Android ecosystem, visit Greenbot.com.

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