Canadian wireless carriers don’t want any competition

In case you didn’t notice, Bell, Rogers, Fido and Telus teamed up together to offer wifi access across Canada. They’ve implemented common branding (“Hotspot”), a common website (www.canadianhotspot.ca) and inter-carrier billing (so that a Rogers customer can utilize a Bell hotspot and have their usage billed to their Rogers cell account). Each carrier also sets their own pricing for the service:

Fido ($8 for 1 hour / $15 for 1 day / $40 monthly)
Rogers ( 15 cents per minute)
Bell ($7.50 for 1 hour / $13 for 1 day / $25 monthly)
Telus ($10 for 1 hour / $15 for 1 day / $25 for 1 week / $30-40 monthly)

Personally, I think a coordinate service offering like this is wonderful. However, it looks like they don’t want the wifi service to compete against their regular wireless phone service. According to the frequently asked questions (FAQ) they’ve put together:

You cannot use a CHRA Hotspot to send or receive a VoIP calls doing so could disrupt or interfere with the Hotspot service

Now this is ridiculous! A VOIP wifi handset (or SIP softphone on a laptop) using a decent codec such as G.729 utlizes much less bandwidth than a heavy surfing session, an FTP file transfer, a Podcast download, streaming video and so on. VOIP calls don’t disrupt or interfere with the Hotspot service. In fact, last July Skype and Boingo (a large international wifi hotspot aggregator) signed a hotspot roaming agreement to provide its users with access from any one of 18,000 affiliated wifi hotspots. What VOIP does do is reduce the demand to utilize cell phone service, particularly when roaming or dialing long distance calls.