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Cost of basic cellphone service up 16% in a year, full-feature packages down 15%

A text message is sent on a mobile phone, November 9, 2010 in Montreal.The price of basic wireless phone service has gone up 16 per cent since last year but other packages with more features have held steady or gone down, according to an annual study commissioned by Industry Canada and the CRTC. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz

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A text message is sent on a mobile phone, November 9, 2010 in Montreal.The price of basic wireless phone service has gone up 16 per cent since last year but other packages with more features have held steady or gone down, according to an annual study commissioned by Industry Canada and the CRTC. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz

TORONTO - The price of basic wireless phone service in Canada has gone up 16 per cent since last year but packages with more features have held steady or gone down, according to an annual study commissioned by Industry Canada and the CRTC.

The 2014 study by Ottawa-based Wall Communications says the average price for the most basic cellphone service with low call volumes and no text or data was $35.70 per month.

Prices for mid-level packages with average call volumes and more features were unchanged, at about $45.26 per month.

Meanwhile, a third level of service with high call volumes, a full set of features and up to one gigabyte of data usage, declined in price by 15 per cent to about $80 from about $94 a month a year earlier.

Bernie Lefebvre, vice-president at Wall Communications, said Canadian wireless prices have been declining since 2008, with only a few exceptions.

"I would say, overall, the prices have been trending downwards but that Level 1, voice-only basic package, went up this year," Lefebvre said in an interview from Ottawa.

He also noted that Level 2 basket of services, with 450 minutes of talk time and 300 texts, broke the downward trend by remaining flat this year compared with last year.

Compared with prices in other countries, Canada continues to be less expensive than the United States but more expensive than Europe, Lefebvre said.

The pricing of Canadian wireless communications has become a political issue, with the Harper government bringing in a number of policies that it says will increase competition and reduce costs for consumers.

Industry Minister James Moore noted in a statement that average wireless prices have decreased by 22 per cent since 2008 and prices for packages that include data have fallen faster over the same period.

"We are encouraged by the findings revealed in today's independent report, which confirm that our policies for more choice and lower prices are working to support Canadian families. We will continue to stand up for consumer choice and robust competition in Canada's wireless sector," Moore said in a statement.

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