Bell and Virgin Mobile have recently setup shop in Thunder Bay and if you have been by their stores, they are busy. Line-ups are a regular sight. Tbaytel’s history of mobile network problems have been ongoing for far too long and many customers are making the switch. Many more will as contracts expire or get close to expiration. Not only are Bell and Virgin competing they have an LTE network. With theoretical maximum speeds of up to 75Mbps, and real-world speeds of 12-25Mbps this is fast – even faster than TBaytel’s DSL broadband service. The only advantage TBaytel has is their coverage of the highways in Northwestern Ontario which may not be an issue for many people who don’t travel those roads too often. Out camping in Quetico this summer, I received 5 bars and perfect signal, but downtown Thunder Bay, dropped calls and one bar are the norm. Even this morning as I was writing this I had a dropped call and only have one bar in downtown Fort William.
• Read more on MobileSyrup about Bell’s Expansion.
On the Internet front, TBaytel has moved too slowly to upgrade DSL speeds to be competitive. On their site, they claim up to 8 Mbps download and 750 Kbps upload. Realistically I have never received better than 4 Mbps download and 400 Kbps upload. For a normal home user this is probably fine, but is no longer sufficient in the ever-increasing cloud based business operating environment. Shaw speeds have increased dramatically over the past years, the Shaw 25 plan gives you 25 Mbps download and 2.5 Mbps upload and the actual speeds reach close to that (and you get a static IP). Shaw also offers plans up to 250 Mbps download which is just ridiculous. However, Tbaytel offers a faster speed to subscribers and bundlers of their Digital TV service up to 25 Mbps download and 1 Mbps upload but you are out of luck if you don’t want their TV service or if they haven’t expanded their capacity in your area. I would choose Tbaytel over Shaw everytime if the performance and price was comparable just to support our locally owned provider but the speed disparity has grown too large to make that argument any longer.
Loosing the battle on two fronts, mobility and Internet is going to take a chunk out of Tbaytel’s profits and their dividend back to the city. I hope they can turn things around and that this competition forces them to beef up their capacity and quality of service. Tbaytel has always been a model of how a locally owned service provider can operate in a high tech business.
Can they stay competitive against these giant mobility companies and ISPs that are expanding into Northwestern Ontario? Will our property taxes go up if Tbaytel’s profits go down? Why not cancel the dividend next year and use the money to invest in their infrastructure? It will be interesting to see what happens in the next 12 months.
Regardless of what the future brings, competition is good for consumers and the competition is really heating up in Thunder Bay. Here’s hoping that the sadly small 500mb mobile data plans will soon be a thing of the past.