MONTREAL - Bell Canada says it's cutting roaming rates in half for mobile phone customers travelling in the United States starting Tuesday in response to consumer feedback.
The move comes just weeks before the Sept. 27 deadline set by the CRTC for telecom companies to submit their roaming fee rates and how much they pay other carriers for roaming agreements.
Analyst Eamon Hoey said the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission is now much more focused on consumers and Bell's lower roaming rates are to "blunt" the argument from consumers that rates are too high.
"The value proposition being offered to consumers is not commensurate with what we see internationally," said Hoey, of Toronto-based Hoey Associates Management Consultants Inc.
The European Union is proposing that all roaming charges be eliminated across the 28-nation bloc by 2016.
The CRTC's new wireless code, which will apply to new contracts for cellphones and other mobile devices starting on Dec. 2, requires roaming charges be capped to prevent bill shock.
The rules require a wireless provider to suspend national and international data roaming charges once they reach $100 within a monthly billing cycle, unless the customer has agreed to pay additional charges.
Bell cut its 30-day U.S. travel bundle, which used to cost $50 in half. Its add-on package for heavy users will be priced at $20, down from $40.
"During the summer...Canadians also told us that they want to use their smartphones a lot when they travel, and they want the price to come down," Wade Oosterman, president of Bell Mobility, said in a statement.
Rogers spokeswoman Patricia Trott said the company has already launched a flat U.S. daily rate and Telus spokesman Shawn Hall said its rates have been consistently lower than its competitors.
"It's a hotly competitive market," Hall said.
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