How Shaw’s acquisition of WIND Mobile will impact Canadian customers

by Jeff Wiener on December 18, 2015

shaw-windWith the surprising announcement yesterday that Shaw Communications has acquired upstart Canadian wireless provider WIND Mobile, the entire landscape of the wireless industry across the Great White North has changed dramatically, as no longer do we have an established and ironclad triumvirate driving up prices across the country, we now have an industry much like our friends to the south, wherein several longstanding incumbents are challenged by the innovative promotional efforts of smaller, more agile competitors.

“I think the best outcome for consumers in terms of prices and quality and in terms of variety as well, I think is a fourth player,” said Walid Hejazi, professor of competitiveness at the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto, in an interview with Global News. “This is a good outcome and I think it will benefit consumers.”

Simply put, with the clout of Shaw behind it, WIND Mobile finally has the ability to be a truly disruptive force in a largely stagnant Canadian wireless market, as not only will the new mobile brand bring new promotions, strategies, and services to the market that will spur on innovation from the incumbent competitors (Canada’s Un-Carrier perhaps?), but being the fourth place finisher in the wireless race puts Shaw in a unique position to lobby for partnerships with non-traditional mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) like Google, whose presence could really shake things up for Canadian consumers.

Considering the many obstacles WIND Mobile has faced over the last six years, I, for one, have to commend the company for making it this far, particularly in a market that is infamous for driving out start-ups and destroying newcomers. That said, I think it was clear to everyone that WIND’s valiant fight was coming to an end, which makes this the perfect time for Shaw, one of Canada’s top telecommunications and entertainment companies, to enter the wireless market. I mean, it already provides Internet, cable, and home phone service, why not round out the portfolio and finally have the reach across multiple industries that we’ve seen for years from Telus, Rogers, and Bell?

As David Allwright, dean of the Chiu School of Business at Bow Valley College, told Global News, the move will impact all Canadian wireless customers, not just those who choose Shaw. “Existing customers will be happy; expanded coverage, more aggressive rate plan,” Allwright said. “New customers will be happy because that gives them more options in that market.

But for Canadian customers to see real impact I think what we’ll really need to see is the Federal government loosen restrictions on foreign investment in telecommunications, which subsequently will open the door for MVNOs like Google, with its Project Fi, to truly undercut the incumbent providers and drive down prices for consumers.

In fact, in a market where the average Canadian mobile customer pays $60/month, Google’s ultra-fast wireless resale service, in partnership with Shaw’s WIND Mobile for example, would be around half that price, and such fresh competition would be a radical disruption for the market, one that would finally give Canadian customers the value they deserve. That’s not to say that any of that will happen, mind you, as even Shaw’s acquisition of WIND Mobile is still subject to regulatory approval, but that won’t stop this particular beleaguered Canadian wireless customers from dreaming of a better, more competitive wireless industry.

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