Down doggie

Telus Mobility tried buying Microcell Communications, aka Fido, for $1.1 million. Now Rogers Wireless is trying to buy Fido for $1.6 million. Fido does not seem to be as good as making much money as it is in running cute canine-themed ads as of late. And while it’s well-loved as the plucky underdog of the Canadian cellular marketplace, love don’t pay the rent.

There has been half-joking speculation that it’s now that other Canadian cellular company Bell Mobility’s turn at courtship. But it appears that Bell feels that the fastest way to Fido’s heart is by plunging straight into its chest.

Bell Mobility has just announced its Fido Conversion Plan: hand in your Fido phone and a recent bill at a Bell World store, switch to Bell Mobility and receive a 700 minute plan with unlimited weekends and weeknights all free for one year. Then they’ll throw in a free Sanyo or Nokia camera phone. Some customers have even received free accessories to boot. You have to sign a 3-year contract and you still must pay the SAF, but that’s still a free $400 phone.

It’s very atypical for Bell to shoot a cannonball across its competitor’s port bow. It’s very atypical for Bell to mention its competitors in advertising, period. But this is a very clever strategy.

Fido’s generous but money-losing plans, such as their $45 CityFido plan that features unlimited local calling, can be seen as an attempt to fatten them up for prospective buyers, such as Telus and Rogers.

Its GSM 1900 network is not worth anything; Rogers already has one itself and Fido’s net barely covers Canada’s capital cities. (It is ironic that Fido phones, which run on the worldwide GSM and SIM card standard, can be freely used in 150 countries but will lose signal the moment you leave the city limits of an Canadian urban area.)

Therefore, Bell Mobility is going after the truly valuable part of Fido – its customers. And as long as it costs less than $1.6 million to outfit Fido’s defectors with free phones and free plans, they’re laughing.

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