Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Why Sasktel Will Keep Charging The System Access Fee

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The System Access Fee is as Canadian as maple syrup, beavers and lumberjacks.  That extra fee 6.95 that gets charged on top of cell phone plans that Canadians know and hate is on it's way to becoming a part of history.  It started when subsidiary brands such as Fide, Koodo and Solo from the national cellular carriers started dropping the fee.  At the end of 2009 Rogers dropped the system access fee on new activations and contract renewals, Telus followed suit eventually Bell and MTS have done the same leaving Sasktel as the only carrier to charge the system access fee. 

The revenue typically generated by the system access fee went to pay for the phones that carriers offered to subscribers for free or at a deep discount.  Since Rogers, Bell and Telus are the large cell carriers they buy handsets in the largest volumes which allows them to get lower prices than smaller regional carriers such as Sasktel. 

Sasktel operates a large number of towers in very sparsely populated areas of Saskatchewan which adds cost to operating their network, revenue from the system access fee charged to subscribers in more densely populated areas goes to subsidize the operation of cell towers in the middle of nowhere. 

In order to update to newer technology so that Sasktel can offer phones that don't suck as bad as the phones they offer now is in the process of upgrading to a UMTS/HSPA network (sort of the son of GSM technology).  The cost of this network upgrade is being financed on the open market and has put Sasktel in debt.  The days of network upgrades paid by Saskatchewan taxpayers has come to an end under the Brad Wall government.  

Cell phone subscribers in Saskatchewan who may find system access fee objectionable do have alternatives such as Rogers and Telus.  There is word that Bell Mobility will be coming to the land of living skies within the next couple of years.  Wind Mobile and Mobilicity are also going to be coming to Saskatchewan as well.  Cheaper alternatives are here now with more on the way.

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