As a telecommunications company proudly founded and headquartered in Waterloo, Ontario, we were paying close attention to the recent Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) hearings in Gatineau on the future of MVNOs (mobile virtual network operators) in Canada. Through exceptional service and great partnerships, our app has been downloaded more than 200 million times and we’ve grown into one of the largest MVNOs in the United States. In Canada, we are only able to offer users a phone number and free calling and texting on WiFi through our TextNow app.
We’ve heard the carriers’ concerns about how MVNOs would impact cellular networks. We’ve heard that MVNOs don’t bring anything new to the market.
Canada’s carriers are innovative and have built a wireless infrastructure that’s the envy of most of the world. They provide a great service to their customers. For all of those advancements, they don’t effectively service our most vulnerable citizens.
According to a 2017 Statistics Canada study, 9.5 per cent of Canadians live in poverty. Thankfully, that number is falling; but there is still a large portion of the country that can’t afford even $15 a month for phone service, at least not consistently. It’s easy to scoff at that notion, to write off low-income Canadians as a niche market or a low-value segment.
We believe that in 2020, mobile service is a basic need. To apply for a job, to start a business, for hardworking parents to communicate with their kids, to stay safe.
Last month, we brought free, unlimited nationwide talk and text plans to the United States. Supported by ads, our customers in the U.S. can call or text anyone in the U.S. or Canada from their own 10-digit phone number, at no charge, with a compatible $10 SIM card. On one of the largest networks in the U.S. We currently can’t offer that service in our own backyard.
Why do our U.S. partners let us use their networks? Well, the main reason is that we pay them for access. They are in a competitive market, and they want incremental revenue. They have network capacity and they recognize that we bring in customers they can’t effectively service through their retail channels — we generally don’t compete for the same customers. They work with us to maximize the use of their network, without the need for government intervention.
We haven’t received similar interest from carriers in Canada.
We want Canada to have the best wireless network in the world. We want the major carriers to continue to invest in their networks, roll out 5G, and build out service in rural areas. We also believe everyone should have access to phone service. We’ve successfully brought service that is free — or as close to free as possible — to the U.S., and we believe that a smart MVNO strategy can be a win-win for all parties in Canada, while creating similar opportunities for our most vulnerable.