This is one entry in a multi-part series on the state of mobilecatching in Canada. There are many services coming online that offer podcasts direct to handset, but do the providers in Canada offer plans that make it feasible for consumers to take advantage of these services? The series preamble is here.
First up is TELUS Mobility. TELUS is a major telecommunications player in Canada, albeit most of their strength is here in the western provinces at the moment. Consumers became aware of TELUS in the mid 1990s (ish) when the Alberta Government Telephones telco privatized and was largely bought out by TELUS. Since then, TELUS has become an ISP and cellular provider as well as the main telco in the west.
TELUS has a music store and a series of phones that can take advantage of it. These handsets and services are branded under the SPARK name. Songs range from $1.99 to $2.50 a pop. A search for "podcast" and a quick browse of the available genres leads me to believe that there are no podcasts available in the music store.
Although TELUS customers can't get podcasts through the TELUS music store, it's still possible to turn certain devices into a palmcatcher. If you have a PDA device like my trusty Palm Treo, then you're probably going to have to go with something like Quick News. Quick News is a fully functional RSS reader for Palm, but it also knows how to deal with enclosures which makes it suitable for podcatching. If you're running a supported device, you may also be able to use something like the new Melodeo/Alltel Mobilcast offering.
The problem with the Mobilcast approach is that TELUS doesn't offer that kind of data plan on its handsets. The TELUS handsets that Mobilcast supports have tight menus which control where the end user goes and what they can do. That's how they can get away with charging per-page or per-song rather than per-kilobyte. They know what you can and cannot do. If a user were to install Mobilcast and start streaming hundreds of megabytes into their phone, I don't think it would be long before TELUS called up to terminate the agreement under their abuse clause.
On my Treo, however, I can use Quick News and subscribe to podcasts or anything else I feel like and TELUS won't complain. I pay by the kilobyte, you see. Here's the bandwidth plans that I can get for my Treo through TELUS (note that these plans are the same for TELUS' Windows Mobile devices so any of those PDAs can be used with a Windows Mobile podcatcher as well):
- $25/month: 4MB
- $40/month: 8MB
- $60/month: 30MB
- $100/month: 250MB
These costs don't include any voice minutes, just data. So, what's a podcast listener to do? Even a moderate listener is going to blow the 30MB a month away in the first week and it would be very easy to go over the 250MB for heavier users. Once I tack voice minutes onto my plan to make my PDA properly useful, I'm going to be spending a minimum of $90 even if I try to keep my podcasts under 30MB/month.
That's not really feasible for me. I would easily go over the 30MB although I don't think I would hit the 250 limit. I'm just not willing to spend over $100/month just to listen to podcasts.
I call TELUS a no-go for palmcatching.
Whoa, just did some math. I actually use somewhere around 80MB a week downloading podcasts which means somewhere around 320MB per month. I'd hate to see the overage charges on that!