Canadians Talking Tech

WIND Mobile Launches in Vancouver

by Noah Bloom Posted in Canada, Mobile, Reviews

Today, WIND Mobile has finally launched in Vancouver. They held an opening day launch event at their Yaletown store this morning. We at NorthGeek really appreciate having a new player in Canada to offer mobile services to the masses and finally to bring some competition to the stale Rogers, Telus, and Bell. However, it seems there’s still much confusion over what exactly WIND is.

WIND Mobile Yaletown Vancouver store

So here’s our rundown for you, thanks to Melissa Clark, WIND Mobile’s VP Sales and Distribution, and some of their technical team.

WIND Mobile is NOT:
An MVNO, or Mobile Virtual Network Operator, like Virgin, the major success around the world, and unfortunately a flop (shuffled under the Bell rug) here in Canada. An MVNO piggy-backs on a carrier’s network, is the front facing entity to the customer, but doesn’t own the network themselves. “MVNO” has become a taboo term, especially in Canada, with their spectacular flops (Amp’d in the US).

IS full carrier. WIND Mobile paid $442M for wireless spectrum (as auctioned in 2008) in pockets across Canada, but none in Quebec. They are spending more than that (to date) on network infrastructure (switches, base stations, etc). Oh and they’ll need much more. Building a mobile network in a country as spread apart as Canada is no small task. However, they have the backing of Orascom (global group of telecom companies) WIND affiliates, and other foreign investors (hand-cuffed by Canada’s stifling foreign ownership policy. They paid big money for network gear from Huawei and Alcatel Lucent — unfortunately nothing from Canadian vendors. Boo.

NOT just offering regional, urban coverage. When Fido originally launched as Microcell in 1997, they only had coverage in urban areas. Well, 2010 is very different. Consumers expect coverage everywhere: talk, text, data.

IS full coverage across Canada, however you’re going to pay an additional cost outside of the (current) five zones. They’ll be adding more zones in the coming months/years, and have plans including this “roaming” — you just wouldn’t be advised to get WIND yet if you live outside of those five current zones.

And it was no small feat to get coverage across Canada. Rogers, Telus, and Bell were evidently extremely uncooperative allowing WIND Mobile to share their cell towers (common practice across the industry). In fact, appealing The Big Three on this is a one-by-one incident affair. What a waste of resources. Outside of WIND Mobile zones, customers will roam on Rogers. I believe this is only talk and text, unless your phone supports both WIND’s 3G frequency (1700MHz) and Rogers’ 850MHz.

International roaming is looking good. In the US it’s currently just 25 cents a minute — what a bargain versus Rogers’ robbery of $1.50/minute! Around the globe, it looks pretty similar to anyone else.

NOT an iPhone carrier. Currently the iPhone 3G doesn’t work on WIND’s 3G frequency. You can still use your iPhone on WIND if you’re willing to unlock the phone AND accept EDGE data speeds. iPhone is just not available in 1700MHz (a bane for US’s T-Mobile as well), and don’t hold your breath for that to change.

Will your phone work with WIND? Most phones support multiple bands. For one, it has to be a GSM phone (has a SIM card in it). If it supports 1700 (check the specs), you’ll have 3G (fast data) access, otherwise just talk and text. Get in touch with customer support to find out. They want to hear what phones you want to use.

Android devices will be coming to WIND soon, likely the first from Huawei. Maybe even the HTC EVO? There are two Blackberries in the current lineup.

NOT just another Canadian mobile carrier, we hope. WIND is trying to promote value and transparency. That is their shtick. It’s no gimmick, but is certainly missing in Canada.

IS going to fight hard to make inroads into the market. Some might say they’re even desperate. They’re offering a $150 porting bonus (check for details, this deal is on the down-low), 6 month half price on your plan, no contracts yet discounted phones, and plan prices to compete. There are no contracts, so these are big gambles. The cost per new subscriber is quite high in the wireless business. WIND’s could be even higher.

Is it sustainable? For one, today they were offering $1 hot dogs on the street. Did you get one or ten?

WIND Mobile selling $1 hot dogs at their Vancouver launch

IS… Even if WIND fails, it will have a significant effect on the current Canadian market. Rogers copied them with their Redboard — an online forum for Rogers customers to communicate with the marketing folks and vice versa (well, they listen and reply, but don’t really do anything).

Canada needs this. Canadian mobile consumers desperately need something fresh. Rogers, Bell, and Telus have dragged their asses for too long. I want to support WIND (and Moblicity and Videotron and any other upstart) for that simple reason. And it’s going to cost WIND a whole lotta dough to get mindshare and understanding in Canada. Bring on the marketing team!

Are you out of a contract? Consider joining them. I would, but alas I’m one of the suckers who signed with Fido for 3 years just to get the iPhone, that being my first mobile phone contract ever. I’m certain I will never do that again. Bring on open Android devices and upstart carriers like WIND.

Here are some other things I really like about WIND and you should like too:

  • Simple plan choice. Have you ever tried to wade through the Rogers website to figure out your plan?
  • Fair usage: “If you exceed 5GB of data usage within any given month, we won’t cap your usage but we may slow your speed so that all customers can better share the network.” That’s on the $35/month Infinite data add-on.
  • Treating pre-paid customers the same as post-paid. Both have access to the same plans. Pre-paid customers are no longer second class citizens.

Update: WIND Mobile has tweeted a correction to our published promotion. Don’t quote us on the deal above, but keep in mind that they are offering some great promotions this early:

@nbloom tx for the gr8 writeup: 1 correction: current offer is 50% off ur 1st 6 mos plan fees +1mo free/referralless than a minute ago via web

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  1. 5 Responses to “WIND Mobile Launches in Vancouver”

  2. By Justin Credible on Jun 8, 2010

    Hi there, I just wanted to correct your statement about using an iPhone on WIND. Unfortunately you cannot simply unlock the phone and use EDGE speeds because WIND has no EDGE (2G) network. WIND is a completely 3G all-ISP network, much like the new Bell/Telus 3G-only network. (You cannot use EDGE on those carriers either).

    I’d highly suggest grabbing the Nexus One (Google Phone) for use on WIND. Many people consider it superior to iPhones, and I personally agree. Plus, it’s available with WIND’s AWS frequencies.

  3. By Noah Bloom on Jun 8, 2010

    One of the WIND techies was saying that you could roam on EDGE (or GPRS). Otherwise you’re saying that data will not work outside of the current five urban zones? That’d be pretty crappy. We’re going to dig deeper into this to confirm.

    However, when you say all 3G network, calls are still 2G. 3G is not yet robust enough to handle voice.

  4. By Justin Credible on Aug 6, 2010

    No, WIND has no EDGE (2G) network whatsoever. If you use an unlocked iPhone on WIND, your screen will always say “WIND AWAY” and you are blocked from accessing the EDGE network (which is Rogers only) in the cities, while outside WIND HOME ZONES you will pay roaming data charges on Rogers (WIND AWAY).

    WIND is entirely 3G 1700/2100Mhz and WINDs unlimited plans can obviously only be used while on WINDs own network.


  5. By Justin Credible on Aug 6, 2010

    …and yes, all voice calls are over 3G. It is very robust, and works just like people using 3G on Fido/Rogers/Telus/Bell. On those HSPA networks your voice calls are also carried over 3G only.

  6. By Chris on Oct 19, 2010

    Wind is horrible. Their sales people know nothing and when you call the toll free number they know even less! They also do NOT refund your purchase even if you are within their refund period.

    The reception was horrible in downtown Edmonton with the blackberry I bought and when I complained about it and asked for my money back, they refused to refund the phone or the rate plan purchase. They did however cancel the plan immediately so I had paid for both the phone and plan and got nothing in the end. My work work phone is with Telus and I’ll be switching my personal from Wind back to Telus because it simply works!

    You may save a little money with Wind but you’ll be having every conversation twice because of the dropped calls. If you do decide to try and get your money back, you’re out of luck!

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