Public Mobile launches unlimited music service; confirms it will bid in next spectrum auction
August 15, 2012
By John Bugailiskis
TORONTO – Public Mobile announced its new mobile music download service on Tuesday. Called Siren, it offers unlimited music downloads with its flat-rate pricing plan that also includes unlimited talk, data, and text.
The carrier also confirmed that it is preparing to apply for the federal government’s 700 MHz spectrum auction.
Billed as “Canada’s first truly unlimited mobile experience,” Siren uses an Android app developed by Livewire Mobile that can be downloaded to existing Public Mobile’s Android handsets or pre-installed on new phones. Subscribers will be able to download as many songs and albums they want over a cellular network connection or Wi-Fi, directly to their phone’s SD storage card. The entry-level service plan that includes Siren is $40 per month, and $47 per month adds voicemail and unlimited Canadian long distance. Customers will need to access the music they download through the Siren app and maintain an active account with Public Mobile.
“If you stop paying, your music’s still there, but you can’t access it until you start paying your bill again,” explained Public Mobile's CEO Alek Krstajic at a press conference in Toronto Tuesday morning. The app provides subscribers with access to millions of tracks including the music catalogs of Universal Music Canada, Sony Music Entertainment Canada, and Warner Music Canada.
“We expect 60% of new sales will be with the Siren service" predicts Krstajic. He added that the music service is targeted to go “directly after the big three" incumbent carriers music offerings.
750 MHz spectrum auction
Krstajic, who had previously indicated the carrier would take a pass on the auction of the 700 MHz spectrum coming in 2013, also announced that Public Mobile’s executive team has reversed that decision after examining the auction policy that was released to the industry in March. The public auction is expected to raise more than $3.5 billion for the government.
“I think now there is a good play for new entrants and I think you will see us in the 700 MHz auction,” said Krstajic. He added that the carrier is now analyzing its options and “deciding on what blocks we want to go after.” Part of that discussion will be determining what kind of budget will be necessary to make a successful bid says Krstajic, and he did not dismiss the possibility of a merger with either Mobilicity or Wind to gain further leverage.
"Consolidation of new wireless entrants would be a good thing. Over the last few months there have been lots of conversations. If there is consolidation we will be the buyer,” insisted Krstajic. He added that unlike the other new wireless entrants, who have focused solely on boosting subscribers numbers, Public Mobile has been “obsessed with becoming cash-flow positive.” He added that even with one million subscribers Fido went bankrupt.
Just how cash-flow positive the carrier currently is Krstajic would not reveal. As a privately-held company it only discloses its year end subscriber numbers in January and most recently revealed it had about 200,000 subscribers. He admitted that the first quarter of the year has seen “sluggish growth” but is now moving to set itself apart from its competitors with new services such as Siren and Public Cash Services that are now available at its 37 stores in Ontario and Quebec and also accessible online.
He explains that a large portion of their customers prefer to pay their phone bills in person and can now use the Public Cash Services to pay other bills, send money orders and conduct other bookkeeping duties for less money than what’s charged by banks says Krstajic.