Shaw unveils Freedom Mobile in Victoria

In a bid to bridge what it called the digital divide, Shaw has expanded its Freedom Mobile service to include Victoria and Red Deer, Alta.

During an announcement in Victoria Friday, Paul McAleese, president of Shaw’s wireless division, said Freedom’s arrival will be a welcome addition for consumers.

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McAleese said since they launched last year (Freedom is now in the Toronto area, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver), the company has carved out a position lower-cost leader, which has earned them customers who previously didn’t have mobile phones, while bleeding others from the competition.

“We have been lucky and been able to carve out a position that taps into what Canadians have been telling us for years,” he said. Freedom heard that consumers wanted more data and lower overage fees for exceeding planned usage.

McAleese said Freedom opted to focus on providing more data for less money, given the incumbent players in the market were strong in the voice and text fields. “We gave [consumers] big buckets of data for affordable prices and they have been flocking to us,” he said.

But he conceded Canadian consumers still pay more for wireless service than those in many other countries. “There is strong evidence Canadians pay more for wireless than any member of the [Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.] We are extraordinarily high,” he said. And there is some justification given the size of the country and expense of establishing networks, he said.

“But we built this on a more affordable platform, our response is to provide customers with better value.”

McAleese said they see continued opportunity to take customers from competitors, and there’s room to grow considering only 90 per cent of Canadians have a mobile phone. By comparison, the U.S. has 1.2 cellphones per person. “There are still Canadians that find wireless service a challenge to afford,” he said. “We have an affordability gap in the market.”

Federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau, who was on hand for Friday’s announcement, said the move aligns with the government’s stance of ensuring digital services and rural broadband are extended to all Canadians. “We see it being critically important for all Canadians to be part of the digital economy,” he said.

Freedom Mobile expects to expand to 15 more communities this year in B.C., Alberta and Ontario. Nanaimo is on the list.

aduffy@timescolonist.com

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