Rogers and the iPhone

davidcrow kissing his iPhone

Jay Goldman and I picked up iPhones while at Mix08 and SxSWi. I think we have different experiences with the phones, but generally both are very positive and the key differentiator between a great experience and a good experience appears to be your dependency on Exchange support. Basically Jay runs iCal, to connect to IMAP accounts and Google Calenders. I work at Microsoft and I rely on Exchange Server 2007 on my PCs, my Macs with Office 2008 and Entourage and on my Palm 750 on Rogers.

The question continues to come up as to why we haven’t seen the iPhone picked up by one of the Canadian carriers. The conversation can focus on the third world have cheaper data than Canada. It can be about the pricing of contracts or devices in Canada. It comes down to some very simple business considerations:

  • Cell phone market penetration is high
  • High fees and high ARPU
    • Canadians cell bills are double that of Americans
    • ARPU = Average Revenue Per User
    • Canadian Wireless providers in 2007 had an ARPU of $56 which is high when compared to other countries
  • Apple’s outrageous (good on ‘em) ARPU share
    • The relationship between AT&T and Apple has been described as an ”$18/month ARPU share)
    • Canadian non-voice ARPU is currently less than 10% of existing ARPU meaning Canadian wireless providers see this as an opportunity to increase the ARPU
    • Canadian non-voice services at 10% of ARPU is lower than the US non-voice ARPU which has been reported in the low to mid teens
  • AT&T plans are lower than most Canadian plans
    • AT&T plans start at $59.99/month and work up to a true unlimited plan at $119.99/month
    • As an example, my current Windows Mobile plan on Rogers is $80 for 500Mb + $25 for 250 minutes + $8 Every Call Value Pack includes Voice Mail and Call Display + $6.95 systems access fee = $119.95/month + taxes. And this doesn’t cover long distance across Canada, and it certainly doesn’t cover roaming or roaming data when I’m in the US.
    • Given the Canadian dollar is at parity, I’m paying approximately double for less service than the $59.99/month AT&T plan

So the market is saturated, or at least very close to being saturated in urban centres. Let’s make some assumptions that all of the high value long time customers already have data plans and long-term contracts. These users switch phones on a regular basis because they derive status from the latest, greatest device. They probably don’t need or want to switch carriers. Coupled with the ARPU is the highest in North America. Data and non-voice services are currently less than 10% of the ARPU number and expected to grow. What advantage would Rogers have for negotiating a deal with Apple?

Unlike AT&T with aggressive rates to entice and retain existing customer, Rogers and other Canadian carriers are entrenched. Churn rates are around 2% and I wonder what churn looks like in higher value, higher spend customers. Canadian carriers have the highest ARPU around. Apple has been insistent on changing the wireless model by removing hardware subsidies and driving rates down on necessary data services. What part makes you think that Rogers, Telus or Bell is going to give up $10-18/month of ARPU and drive the overall service costs down?

Particularly when people like me and Jay Goldman are just buying iPhones in the US and running ZiPhone and upping our plans to handle more data. Well we might see an iPhone in Canada, but it won’t be for a while, after the carriers have milked additional ARPU out of the current set of non-voice services.

It makes me wonder where the CRTC is in all of this?