Two giants: Bell vs Videotron

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Alexis Le Marec
As an avid user of social media and online applications, Alexis shares her expertise on how technology influences our social interactions and our daily lives. His practical advice will help you navigate the connected world with ease.

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Summary

Bell may be present across Canada, but its history and that of Videotron are particularly closely linked in Quebec. The French-speaking province is where the two telecom giants have been battling it out for the past three decades through a series of takeovers. If only they were just telecom providers… the two operators each head a media empire.

Bell, the oldest

Bell is Canada’s oldest operator. Its beginnings date back to 1880 when Charles Fleetford Size founded the Canadian Bell Telephone Company, a subsidiary of Boston’s National Bell Telephone Company. The Canadian businessman had been hired by Bell’s board of directors, which included Alexander Graham Bell himself. Bell began service in Hamilton, Brantford, Toronto and Montreal, then expanded to the rest of Canada. To face up to the burgeoning competition, Bell not only expanded across the country but also introduced innovative methods such as manufacturing its own telephone equipment. For over 100 years, Bell was all about telephones, at least in Canada. Its parent company, Bell South, worked on a variety of technologies, and was responsible for many advances in fields such as computing and even visual effects! Otherwise, Bell did work on a cable TV project in 1966, but it ended in 1971. It wasn’t until 1985 that Bell explored a new field and offered the first cellular packages. Back then, prices weren’t cheap, and a subscription cost $10,000 a year. In 1990, Bell once again entered a new market: the Internet. Finally, at the end of the 90s, Bell became the Bell we know today, offering satellite TV services, then developing its media.

Videotron, the maverick

Videotron‘s history is closely tied to Quebec, so much so that Rogers was unable to buy it! Télécâble Vidéotron Ltée was founded in 1964 by Charles Gagnon to provide television services north of Montreal. At the time, the young company had 66 customers. Videotron’s success enabled it to expand rapidly, buying up other independent distributors and bringing them into the fold. The company was also innovative when it came to technology. In 1969, it was the first to offer pay-per-view television with its Selecto-TV channel. In 1974, it was in St-Jérome that Videotron created one of the world’s first two-way networks, from which today’s cable was derived, and which thus served as a model. Throughout its history, Vidéotron has also absorbed a number of competitors, making the company a key player in Quebec. In 2000, Rogers attempted to buy the company but was blocked by the Caisse de dépôt et placement for reasons of cultural sovereignty. Finally, in October 2000, Vidéotron was sold to Québecor, the Québec media giant. Vidéotron quickly became the cornerstone of Québecor’s convergence strategy. Videotron is now looking to expand into Western Canada, and the acquisition of Freedom Mobile could help it do just that.

Whether you like it or not, Videotron has a merit that benefits all Quebecers: lower telephone rates in Quebec than in other provinces. The presence of this fourth major operator, which owns its own network and drives prices down, has forced Bell, Rogers and Telus to reduce their packages by $20 in Quebec.

Coverage and network

Bell claims coverage of 99% of the Canadian population, while Videotron claims 100% thanks to its agreements with other operators in provinces other than Quebec. Of course, this refers to 4G LTE technology, as 5G technology is currently being rolled out and only concerns around 30% of Bell customers across Canada.

 

In terms of call quality, both 5G and 5G+ deliver similar results.  5G+ masters the use of high-frequency millimetre waves (mmWave), but this has no influence on call quality. Quality will depend mainly on your location in relation to these operators’ antennas.

Cellular packages

We would like to point out that the Bell packages we present are those offered in Quebec, and whose prices are lower than those in other Canadian provinces.

As you can see, Bell and Videotron offer similar rates. Videotron offers an automatic $15 discount on all subscriptions to its Helix Internet service. Bell makes up for this with its family packages, offering additional packages at a discount of $20 per subscription. Bell is also offering a two-year subscription to Crave Mobile, its Netflix competitor.

Here are a few offers from the two providers:

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Internet packages

At Bell, the difference is $10. The two basic packages, Fibe 25 and Fibe 50, priced at $60 and $70 respectively, are not very fast for their price, but also for the speeds allowed by fibre. However, once you upgrade to the Fibe Gigabit 1.5 package for $80, or $10 more than Fibe 50, the speed is multiplied by 30.

 

 

Videotron is finally offering a 940 Mbit subscription for $75, something it has been lacking against Bell’s offerings. The basic 30 and 60 packages offer slightly more bandwidth than Bell but at a lower price. For any two-year commitment, Videotron sells you the Helix terminal, but in a different form to ensure that you don’t break the contract. If you want to leave, Videotron will charge you $300 for the terminal.

Videotron continues to offer lower rates than Bell, but Bell regularly offers big discounts for any two-year commitment. This makes Bell’s rates more attractive than those of Videotron. After two years, Bell will of course apply the full rate.

Here are a few offers from the two providers:

Powered by PlanHub

 

Internet technologies

Bell’s network has been based on fibre optics for many years. Initially, Bell used mainly a FTTP network before really moving to FTTH in 2015 with Fibe packages starting at 1Gbit.

In the meantime, Videotron is sticking with cable technology. According to Videotron, the new 940 Mbps offer is supposed to be FTTH fibre optics. The 400 Mbit offer is still based on FTTP.

Cellular technology

Videotron and Bell both offer 5G, but Bell is now offering 5G+. Compared to 5G, 5G+ doubles data throughput, while response time drops to 1 millisecond. This speed and response time are really useful in professional environments, for example, 5G+ paves the way for real-time remote operations or in fields such as inventory management.

What phones are offered by Bell and Videotron?

Since Bell and Videotron are both major operators, their offerings differ in very few respects. Both operators offer all the leading devices on the market.

There are also new phones from TCL and Motorola, while Bell also offers Sonim and ZTE phones.

Videotron also offers a few refurbished LG phones, unlike Bell, which doesn’t sell any used phones. Note that Bell indicates the total cost of ownership of its phones on its site, a good initiative that we applaud.

Advantages and disadvantages

Bell

Benefits Disadvantages
Fibre optic speed

 

Expensive rates

 

5G+ technology

 

Customer service still needs  improvements

 

A forerunner in technology

 

High costs

 

 

Videotron

Benefits Disadvantages
Cellular subscription rates

 

Unbundled billing

 

Customer service

 

Unexpected price hikes

 

Special offers

 

Occasional Internet network problems

 

 

Reputation

Videotron’s reputation is uneven among users. Some customers appreciate the promotional offers, customer service and rates. Others complain about unexpected rate increases, lack of billing grouping for different services and network problems.

Bell benefits from a solid network for its various services, and users emphasize this. However, Bell also had the unfortunate privilege of being the operator with the most complaints to the CRTC each year until 2021. These mainly concerned contracts in conflict with the agreement, as well as billing. It has to be said that third-party telephone solicitation companies mandated by Bell have, in order to inflate their numbers, sold subscriptions at a rate too lower than that authorized by Bell, which has led to conflicts.

We contacted Bell to get their take on the issue: “We’ve made significant customer service improvements since 2016, including strengthening the processes in place with our authorized agents that guide them toward creating advantageous and competitive offers for customers. We’re very proud of the work we’ve done to improve our CCTS results. In fact, Bell was the only national provider to experience a decrease in complaints in the CCTS mid-year report released in early April. Bell’s complaints decreased by 6%, while industry-wide complaints increased by 12%. Bell’s share of complaints decreased by 16% year over year, and an impressive 55% since the 2017-2018 mid-year reporting period.

 

According to the reviews left on PlanHub, customers are satisfied with Bell Internet’s speed and stability. The quality of telephony is also praised. On the other hand, customer service is criticized, as are the high charges for ancillary operations. Cellular package rates are also criticized.

 

At Videotron, the reviews left on PlanHub generally praise the rates and sometimes the customer service. They do, however, pinpoint rate increases and separate billing for each service.

FAQ

Bell

How do I reach Bell Mobility by phone?

Bell can be reached by telephone at 1 800 667 0123.

Bell also provides a dedicated service for people with visual, hearing or motor impairments at 1 866 310 Bell (2355).

 

How do I cancel a contract with Bell?

To cancel a contract with Bell, you must contact the customer service department dedicated to the service you wish to cancel.

  • To cancel the mobility service, call 1 800 667 123
  • To cancel your Internet, Fibe TV, or telephony service call 1 866 342 7367
  • To cancel your Bell Satellite TV service, call 1 888 759 3474.
  •  

How do I view my Bell Mobility invoice?

To view your Bell Mobility invoice, go to the Bell billing page and log in to your account.  MyBell – Self-service – Login

You can also download the Bell application for Android MyBell – Application on Google Play or iOS MyBell on the App Store (apple.com)

 

Videotron

How can I lower Videotron prices?

There are several ways to lower Videotron’s price.

  • PlanHub lets you compare prices and access Videotron discounts.
  • By adding a cellular package to your Internet package, Videotron will offer you a minimum $10 rebate.
  • If your subscription is about to expire, you can also negotiate a new two-year commitment, which will entitle you to a discount. It’s in Videotron’s interest to keep you as long as possible because you’re worth more to them. Subscribing to a new two-year contract is therefore your assurance that you’ll stay.

 

How do I reach Videotron?

You can reach Videotron by telephone at 1 877 512 0911.

You can also chat with a customer support representative by following this link and clicking on Chat.  

How do I log in to my Videotron account? How do I view my Helix invoice?

The best way to reach the Videotron Customer Centre is to go to this page and select the service you wish to connect to. Then simply enter your login and password. 

Conclusion

Videotron remains the outsider to Bell, offering lower rates for both telephony and Internet. Bell is catching up on technological innovation with 5G+, whereas it has been offering fibre for years. 5G+ also enables Bell to forge partnerships with prestigious third-party companies, boosting its communication and perception. Finally, Bell is sometimes able to offer two-year commitments at lower rates than Videotron when it needs to attract new customers.

For its part, Videotron can rely on its own customer service and infrastructure. The company is very flexible when it comes to renewing a commitment in exchange for lower rates. Its prices are of course higher than those of independent providers and operators, but customers pay this extra for customer service. Otherwise, by finally adopting fibre, Videotron is preparing for the future.

 

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