June 28, 2008 / 12:17 AM / 9 years ago

Customers groan as Rogers sets iPhone prices

<p>Apple Corporation CEO Steve Jobs speaks about the price of the new iPhone 3G during his keynote speech at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco, California June 9, 2008.Kimberly White</p>

OTTAWA/TORONTO (Reuters) - Rogers Communications Inc, owner of Canada's biggest wireless carrier, announced pricing plans on Friday for Apple Inc's 3G iPhone, prompting an outcry about prices from angry customers.

The sleek, multimedia device will hit Canadian stores on July 11. But soon after Rogers unveiled its plans, a protest website began collecting signatures and comments that its creators plan to send to the company on the day of the launch.

"This plan is a joke compared to other countries," wrote one complainer, while another wrote: "What a rip off!!!"

Canadians have long bemoaned high cost of wireless service compared to those in the United States, and many blame lack of competition in a relatively thinly populated country that stretches across six time zones.

Aside from Rogers, only Telus Corp and BCE Inc are national carriers, and Rogers is the only one of the three with the GSM wireless technology that the iPhone uses.

Rogers and its Fido wireless unit said they were offering voice and data plans ranging in price from C$60 ($59) to C$115 ($114) a month for the iPhone, a price that includes unlimited Wi-Fi access at Rogers and Fido hotspots.

The top-end C$115 plan will buy 800 weekday minutes for voice calling and unlimited time at evenings and weekends.

It will allow users to send 300 text messages and have 2 gigabytes of data usage -- something that Rogers says is enough for about 1 million text e-mails, or 16,000 Web pages, or 7,000 photo attachments.

By comparison, U.S. carrier AT&T has said it will offer unlimited 3G iPhone data plans for $30 a month in addition to voice plans that start at $39.99 a month.

The iPhone combines Apple's ubiquitous iPod portable music player with a smartphone that can receive e-mails wirelessly and let users browse the Internet.

Prices for the phone are almost the same in Canada and the United States -- C$199 or $199 for the 8 GB version or C$299 or $299 for the 16 GB version.

But Rogers requires a three-year contract while AT&T is asks for a two-year commitment only.

Its exclusive deal to bring the iPhone to Canada has been a winning stroke for Rogers, whose stock rose 2.3 percent on April 29, the day of the announcement. Some analysts said that news was more important than the strong financial results the company released that day.

On Friday, Rogers shares rose 38 Canadian cents to close at C$39.52 on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

The iPhone has been tagged as a potential challenger to Research In Motion Ltd's 3G BlackBerry Bold, which will roll out globally this summer and cost between $300 and $400.

Editing by Janet Guttsman

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