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Wind Mobile undercuts big three carriers, ditches contracts

TORONTO - Wireless provider Wind Mobile launched its cellphone and data service Wednesday, bringing a new player and more competition into the already hotly contested cellphone market.

TORONTO - Wireless provider Wind Mobile launched its cellphone and data service Wednesday, bringing a new player and more competition into the already hotly contested cellphone market.

Wind, owned by Yak long-distance provider Globalive, opened 18 outlets in the Toronto area, with plans to open more later this week in Calgary and in Vancouver, Ottawa and Edmonton in the new year.

The company is pinning its competitive hopes on contractless price plans, which it says reflect what Canadians really want when they buy a cellphone, when it goes up against the already established players, Rogers (TSX), Bell (TSX:BCE), and Telus (TSX:T).

"Today marks a new chapter for wireless in Canada," said Wind chairman Anthony Lacavera.

Globalive was given the go-ahead to operate in Canada on Friday when Industry Minister Tony Clement overturned a CRTC ruling - which stated it wasn't Canadian-owned or controlled - that had prevented an earlier launch. Globalive is 65 per cent owned by Egyptian telecom giant Orascom.

CEO Ken Campbell said Wind's pricing plans are based on feedback from its potential customers.

"We've heard overwhelmingly that they're tired of high prices, poor service, limited technology and complicated billing. They are tired of system access fees and contracts," Campbell said.

Voice pricing plans range from $15 per month for a basic 100-minute-a-month option to $45 per month for an unlimited Canada-wide text and voice plan.

Separate data plans that can be bundled into a handset plan range from $10 to $35 a month. There is no cap on usage, but if customers exceed five gigabytes of data usage in a month, the company will slow their speed.

Wind is contract-free, but -unlike charges full price for its handsets upfront at cost, said chief customer officer Chris Robbins.

"There isn't a customer out there that thinks their phone is zero dollars, they know they're paying for it, it's just a matter of how they're paying for it, Robbins said.

"When we talk to customers the fact that there's no contracts, they're willing to pay more for it up front so they don't have to lock into a contract."

Wind sold its first handset, an HTC Maple, at its flagship Toronto store to its first customer, Chris, who said he had been using a pay-as-you-go plan while he waited for the launch of a new network.

"I've been waiting for a long time and I knew it was going to happen, it was just a matter of when."

A queue of about 50 new customers waited outside to catch a glimpse of the brightly-coloured store and the four handsets it is rolling out, the BlackBerry Bold 9700, the HTC Maple, Huawei U7519 and Samsung Gravity 2.

Wind says it will have about 15 handsets available in 2010. The company has formed a partnership with video chain Blockbuster and has opened boutiques in 13 stores in Toronto and three in Calgary.

While the new company's network coverage is focused in the Greater Toronto Area, outside of its coverage area, it will provide national coverage through a roaming agreement with Rogers.

Wind offers an array of no-charge services including incoming texts and long distance calls, no activation fees, or system access fees. Its plans also include province-wide calling without long distance fees and no-charge call control features including caller ID, missed call alerts and call waiting.

It will also not charge for enhanced 9-1-1 services and will not charge penalties for changing or cancelling a plan.

 
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