Sunday, November 08, 2009

Cellphone Bill

By way of an answer to various questions on my previous cellphone rant, I present my cellphone bill.

The lowest base rate is $25 dollars. That includes 100 local minutes. It doesn't include the system access fee, 911 fee (that's 911 as in the emergency telephone number, nothing to do with the terrorist attack), or taxes. So if I made no long distance calls and only 100 minutes of calls both to and from my local calling area, the total bill would be $37. Earlier I quoted $50 before calls, because I choose to pay the $35 base rate. It has a couple of features that save me at least $20 later in the arithmetic. Specifically, it includes unlimited nationwide calling and texts to my five "favourite" numbers, which I choose once a month. Seeing as the list generally starts with boss, maintenance, and customer I'm not sure that "favourite" is the best description, but that's what they call it. That probably saves me $15-20 a month, plus the $35 plan includes $10 more "local" minutes than the cheapest, $25 plan.

You might think that I wouldn't need 200 local minutes, because, as a reader put it, "Aviatrix is never in her local calling area," but with my phone company you have to use "local" minutes in order to call long distance. Or as footnote number four on the contract puts it: "Long distance refers to calls originated in Canada and terminated in either Canada or the U.S., except for Hawaii and Alaska. Airtime is not included." That is, any call uses airtime, and long distance calls use airtime plus long distance time. How much? Thirty-five cents a minute each, so long distance is 70 cents a minute, plus tax.

It's not quite that bad, because I can buy either sort of minutes in advance, a hundred at a time, for ten cents each. They don't carry over to the next month and I can't swap local for long distance or vice versa if I make more or fewer local calls than I expect. So I add 200 minutes of long distance for $20, and use the 200 "airtime" minutes that came with the plan so I can actually use the long distance minutes. I add in a $5 package that gives me 250 nationwide text messages (otherwise they'd be 15 cents each).

That gives me:
  $35    base rate
  $20    200 long distance minutes
  $5     250 text messages
  .75    Enhanced 911 Access Charge
  $6.95 System Access Fee
  $7.50 Tax

For a Canadian, that's not an exorbitant phone bill. I only use the phone for work: my friends get e-mail or postcards. I don't use data other than text messages, and we all tend to keep calls short. Reader SwL_Wildcat pays $450-$500 per month, and I must mention his point that the population density is lower and the size of the country higher than anywhere else in the cellphone-equipped world, so perhaps we aren't being ripped off quite as badly as we feel we are.

Were I to use the telephone in the United States it would cost me 95 cents a minute for incoming calls and $1.45 a minute for outgoing calls. Instead I bought an entire phone and 400 minutes of airtime for the price of twenty minutes of talk on the Canadian one.

I find it more tiring to explain my phone bill than to explain how a VOR works. And I'm not going to explain what a system access fee is, but I leave the comments open to any Canadians who wish to explain it.


Chad said...

I feel your pain. Your post illustrates how rediculously complicated cell phone plans are. You'd think they could make things simpler...

Anonymous said...

Do you watch The Dragon's Den on CBC? One of the pitches this year (as I recall) was about a website that would allow cell phone shoppers to post their needs and then the site would find them the best quotes available by different cell phone companies.

I think that's a great idea.

Ward said...

Back when Rogers was Cantel and this was the hot new phone, you had to pay the government for a radio license, I think it was $48/yr. Somewhere along the way, the gov't. dropped the license fee, but all the cell companies got together and said "let's all charge $7/month and claim it's the same thing as the license fee." On the last Bell phone I got, they had a plan that didn't have a system access fee, so I don't know what the big carriers are saying about the fee these days.

zeeke42 said...

Wow, that's staggeringly more expensive than the US. Three of us pay $150 per month for 3 lines with unlimited data and text messages, unlimited night and weekend calls throughout the US, unlimited calling to other US mobiles on any carrier, and a shared 1500 minutes a month for anything outside those categories.

I, for one, would be interested in more posts on things US residents would be surprised to learn about Canada. I often think of it as being very similar to the US in most regards, but that impression is probably fostered by only having traveled in the south.

Aviatrix said...

zeeke42, I'm in the same boat, not always realizing what is different until I encounter the difference in the states, but that is an ongoing theme of this blog, especially in the winter when I spend time in the US. I find the differences interesting, too.

I usually put the labels "US-Canada differences" or "US-Canada relations" on such posts. (I used the latter with the former meaning for a while).

Mario in PY said...

Here in Paraguay (heart of South America) where the landline coverage is very low and rather expensive to get, a cell phone is the cheapest way communicate. There are about 10 cell phones to every landlines. And it is not uncommon for a single user to have 2 or 3 cell phones from different companies, to avoid interconnection charges. Here the caller pays the whole fee, so incomming calls are totaly free, even on cell phones. On top of that I am on a community plan, and the first 9 minutes to other phones on the same community are free. And the normal airtime is US$0.003/second if I stay within my provider. Therefore I find that with my US$10/month plan I have now saved up a considerable amount for contingencies.

Rhonda said...

The big carriers have admitted that the system access fee is their own invention and their discount brands have dropped them.

I'm still using a plan that has the system access fee, because the equivalent plan without from the same carrier would end up costing me more when everything is added up - I'm on a $25/mo base rate plan that includes unlimited incoming calls (I don't pay airtime to receive) where the no system access fee plans have that as a $10/mo option.

One of those long distance cards you can get from drugstores allows 3c/min long distance anywhere in north america, if you're willing to dial about 25 extra digits before the phone number you want to call.

Jim said...

The "System Access Fee" should be relabelled as "profit-adding increment", because it does nothing except add revenue (or make the other costs look smaller).

I'm fortunate in that my employer pays for my (Rogers) cellphone - I have a plan which costs them some $100+ dollars per month, but gives me essentially unlimited texts, 500MB of data (I have a BB), and 500 minutes of anywhere, anytime, there-is-no-such-think-as-long-distance calling within Canada.

Our mobile costs are high - Canada has a lot of geography and not a lot of people.

mattheww50 said...

Two points.

First of All Australia is only slightly smaller, but has about 40% fewer people. Canada is about 4 people per square km, Australia is about 3 per square km. So Australia is even less densely populated than Canada.There is very robust competition for mobile service in Australia, and I found it to be less expensive than the same service in the USA.

The other issue with US telephone services are the 'hidden' charges. when I lived in Arizona, there were 11 different fees, charges, surcharges and taxes. So while the basic telephone charges were only about $25 per month, the actual bill was closer to $40 per month.

iPhoneShopper said...

I've been considering a iPhone lately - it's just so convenient to use a cell phone when flying now... But while the entry price is small (less than $100), the monthly fee still makes me choke. At $60+/mo that's over $700/year... EVERY YEAR!

An earlier poster thought that $150/mo was cheap. $1,800 per year... After ten years I've paid the price of a small airplane!?

Maybe I'm just better off to invest that kind of money in Canadian telecommunication stocks!

Paul B said...

I see that many of your Canadian cell companies are dropping this charge... but as others have noted, you'll just end up paying it in another way.

Here in UK when flying you have to pay various "airport taxes" and "flying taxes". It doesn't matter if you pay £10 for the flight, and £90 in taxes, or £100 inclusive, you still pay the same :-(