Happy April Fools’ everyone!
The following post was my attempt at Internet humour for April 1, 2014 – an imaginary “scoop” on some new plans at Telus.
TELUS TAKES A FRESH APPROACH
“Last summer I promised a bloodbath in the wireless sector,” Darren Entwistle said in an exclusive interview with Angelus Novus Monday afternoon, “and before I step down as Telus CEO, I intend to deliver.” Entwistle, who is scheduled to pass the reigns of the western telecom giant to chief commercial officer Joe Natale on May 8, went on to explain the motives behind his renewed combative stance, and outlined steps he’s going to take to make sure there isn’t any doubt about just how competitive Telus really is.
“We’ve suffered a lot of negative press recently, most notably over this winter’s pricing adjustments and the transition of Public Mobile’s customers to our modern network,” Entwistle said. “Deserved or not, that kind of publicity just doesn’t jive with our consumer-first approach. I don’t want to be remembered as the CEO who forced a bunch of seniors to buy new phones. I want to make sure our customers know that the future really is friendly from here on out.”
Telus, known for its ad campaign featuring colourful, cuddly zoo creatures, looks like it’s really going to be putting its monkey where its mouth is. “We’re just tired of keeping up the act,” Entwistle admitted. “Everyone knows that the incumbents don’t really compete where it counts – on price. I mean, in a competitive market, real adversaries can’t get away with always raising their rates and never giving consumers a break. Something’s gotta give. Sometimes, someone’s gotta break off from the pack, and it’s going to be Telus.”
Asked how he intended to differentiate his company from other wireless providers, Entwistle responded: “We’ve already got the best customer service in the business – what’s missing is a price point that will attract new customers. If establishing lasting subscriber relationships and rewarding loyalty means we have to start a price war, well, so be it. You don’t get to the top without making a few enemies along the way.”
I was skeptical at first, but Entwistle was adamant: lower prices aren’t too good to be true. He described the business case succinctly: “Our analysts have been over the model. They’ve assessed the risk, and we’re confident that we can attract new subscribers in numbers sufficient to maintain healthy revenue growth.”
To that effect, Telus appears to be taking its strategic cues from T-Mobile, America’s maverick fourth player. After the FCC rejected a merger with AT&T, T-Mobile was forced to rethink its approach, and broke ranks with the incumbent players. Since then, T-Mobile has seen impressive subscriber growth thanks to service innovations like eliminating roaming fees and contracts.
Similarly, Industry Canada turned down Telus’s bid to take over rival Mobilicity late last year, and Telus recently jumped ship on Canada’s wireless lobby group, the CWTA. For Telus, it’s time to sink or swim.
Telus plans to start out by consolidating its offerings and simplifying terms of service. Beginning in April, confusing data plans based on gigabytes per month are getting tossed out the window – and with them go overage penalties, complicated contracts, locked devices, and exorbitant US roaming rates.
For starters, Telus will be offering just two wireless plans – “Essentials” for $30 a month, and “Ultra” for $50. Based on speed, not on usage, both of these plans include unlimited nationwide calling and unlimited data. “What’s new is that they’re designed around what people want to do with their phones, not how much they want to use them,” explained Entwistle. The essentials plan is designed to be fast enough for email, web browsing, app downloads, Youtube, and streaming radio, while the Ultra plan will be a no-holds-barred service for power users who plan to tether and make use of the newest, most bandwidth intensive video and cloud applications.
There is a catch – plans will still be subject to an excessive usage policy and customers will have to pay off their devices on a Koodo-inspired “tab” – but Telus customers will no longer have to worry about incurring punitive overage fees. Instead of charging penalties of $5, $10, or $15 per GB like some of their competitors, Telus will be taking a cue from MTS, Sasktel, and Wind Mobile by instead slowing speeds past a certain threshold. “It’s a balanced approach to network management,” explained Shawn Hall from Telus’s social and media relations department. “This way we can ensure a reliable experience for all users, while providing customers with peace of mind in knowing that their bills will never unexpectedly skyrocket. With the new plans from Telus, bill shock is a thing of the past.”
When asked about contracts and unlocked phones, Hall responded enthusiastically. “With these kinds of deals, we won’t need long contracts and digital locks to hang on to our customers. If anything, we’re going to have our hands full signing up new subscribers who’ll be ditching Bell and Rogers once they hear about our new, unbeatable deals.”
The last piece of the puzzle, roaming fees, are a no-brainer according to Entwistle. “We have a number of roaming agreements with American carriers. These agreements operate under a practice called “bill and keep,” which means we don’t actually pay each other anything. US customers roam onto our network, and ours roam onto theirs, so no money changes hands. We figured, if we don’t have to pay for American roaming, neither should our customers. Simple as that.”
With such a loud and clear message from Telus, Angelus Novus reached out to Bell and Rogers for comment on their plans to react. Wade Oosterman, President of Bell Mobility, responded via email: “Well, I called Darren [Entwistle] yesterday to confirm our weekly golf game. To my surprise, he said “Sorry Wade, too busy lowering our prices to hit the links this week!” and hung up the phone. I was in shock.” Oosterman went on to indicate that Bell intends to match all plans offered by its competitors going forward. “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em,” he quipped, “and besides, who’s going to raise the collusion alarm when everyone’s lowering prices?”
Rogers didn’t respond when asked for a comment (Check back for updates).
New Telus plans go into effect April 1 – visit http://www.telus.com/aprilfirst for more details.