Competition for the hearts and minds of Canadian Internet subscribers heated up yesterday as Rogers Cable Inc. and Yahoo Inc. launched a combined high-speed service, an upgraded version of the existing Rogers portal.
The new Rogers-Yahoo service has a home page that can be customized, an e-mail system with virus and spam protection, unlimited storage space for photos, and links to Yahoo's Launchcast Plus music service.
The latest foray comes just a month after Bell Canada introduced a similar co-branded Internet service, Sympatico.MSN.ca, with Microsoft Canada Co.
Unlike with the Bell-Microsoft service, however, Rogers is not yet charging more for its premium package.
Customers will get the new services at the same price they are already paying -- $44.95 a month for full high-speed service. Eventually there will be added cost upgrades, but Rogers was coy about when they will come and what they will include.
"There are three ways to fight the [high-speed Internet] battle: speed, price and bells and whistles," said Brahm Eiley, president of Toronto's Convergence Consulting Group Ltd.
"Rogers has the advantage on speed, was pretty equal on price, and is now fighting [Bell] on bells and whistles."
The Rogers-Yahoo service was made available yesterday to Rogers Cable customers in Ontario and New Brunswick. Subscribers in Newfoundland will have to wait until later this year.
Rogers Cable chief executive officer Edward Rogers said his firm hopes the Yahoo enhancements will provide an incentive for its low-speed Internet subscribers to move up to high-speed service, and keep customers from changing to another carrier.
Retaining Internet customers and gaining new ones is critical for companies like Rogers, which is planning to add Internet-based local telephone service to its product line next year.
At the end of March Rogers had 829,000 Internet subscribers in the areas it serves, while Bell had 2.4 million Internet subscribers in Ontario and Quebec.
Charlotte Burke, senior vice-president for consumer Internet services at Bell Canada, said it is difficult to compare her firm's offerings directly with Rogers, but she suggested the Sympatico-MSN service is stronger on Canadian content and French-language services.
Over all, with the intense competition "customers are getting a lot more tools that we hope are making the Internet safer and simpler," she said.
© The Globe and Mail
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