Do you remember the Rogers blackout? They’ve added 221,000 new phone customers since then | CBC News

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Despite a crippling days-long outage on its network that made many Canadians swear they’d never trust the company again, Rogers has managed to add 221,000 new cell phone customers since then.

The telecommunications giant reported financial results for the three-month period to the end of September on Wednesday. They showed that total service revenues at the Internet, cable, phone and cell phone conglomerate amount to $3.2 billion, enough for a profit of $371 million.

Both figures were lower than analysts anticipated, but would have been higher were it not for the financial and reputational hit the company suffered from a massive network outage this summer.

On Friday, July 8, an early morning software update on Rogers’ main IP network went catastrophically wrong, causing the company’s entire internal network to become overloaded and shut down, eliminating all services. company’s wired and wireless internet services.

Because of the company’s ubiquitous role in Canada’s IT infrastructure system, Rogers’ customers weren’t the only ones affected. Payment systems, government services and even 911 access were unavailable across the country for much of the day, with many customers still experiencing issues through the weekend.

CLOCK | Canadians react to massive Rogers blackout:

Major Rogers blackout affects businesses and customers across Canada

Rogers customers were caught off guard by Friday’s massive outage involving mobile and internet networks, which also caused widespread disruption for banks, businesses and some emergency services across Canada.

The company says it learned from the incident and fixed the mistakes that caused it, and CEO Tony Staffieri promises to do better.

“In the wireless space, Rogers remains strong,” he told analysts on a conference call to discuss the company’s financial results on Wednesday. “Although very disappointed by the blackout, the impact was isolated.”

The shock was fairly isolated in large part because telecoms customers in Canada are notoriously loyal, says Reza Rajabiun, a professor of competition policy and an expert on telecoms strategy.

“People have a lot of brand loyalty in these markets,” he said in an interview Wednesday. “So what they call churn is very low among carriers.”

He says the incident is “a very interesting reflection of the lack of competitive options in the market from a consumer perspective because, despite the great reputational damage they suffered from the blackout, they still added customers.”

Refunds provided by the company

Staffieri noted that the company doled out $150 million in rebates during the quarter, adding that without it, the company’s wireless revenue would have increased 9 percent compared to last year.

Of the 221,000 net new wireless customers, 164,000 were postpaid. The rest were prepaid, which are typically low-cost plans with little or no information.

In total, Rogers has added 448,000 new wireless customers so far this year, a pace that is 137 percent higher than last year. “Rogers is making strong share gains in a growing and competitive wireless market,” he said.

A refund equal to about five days of service on the average bill may not sound like much, given the inconvenience of the company’s second major outage in as many years. But it was apparently enough to keep a good chunk of the company’s customers with them, and even add new ones, at least on the wireless side.

In the days that followed, many Canadians said they would leave the company and go to a rival, but Wednesday’s figures show that very few followed through on that threat.

Gary Lyon lives in an apartment building in Toronto, where he has been told that other companies are not well connected enough to provide the kind of Internet service he needs. (Gary Lyons)

Gary Lyon of Toronto was one of them. He has cable, internet and wireless service with Rogers, and he pays about $180 a month for all three. On the day of the blackout, he said he was most discouraged by the company’s lack of communication.

“If you have a major outage, the first thing is that you recognize that yes, you have problems,” he said in an interview this week. “’We don’t have a clear timeline for when it will be fixed, but we’re working on it.’ Even three sentences from someone who takes responsibility.”

few alternatives

Like many Canadians, Rogers was mostly out of touch on July 8 as his internal telecommunications services were down, but for Lyon that’s no excuse. He was one of many for whom the blackout seemed to be the straw that broke the camel’s back. But when he looked for alternatives, he discovered that he really had no better alternatives.

“I seriously wanted to get rid of Rogers and was looking at options,” he said, but lives in a Toronto apartment building where other providers say their hands are tied. “The only way it would make sense for me to get out of Rogers would be fiber internet, and we can’t get fiber. According to Bell, they can’t connect our building.”

Lyon could get a cell phone plan from another company, but says the prices wouldn’t generate any real savings for him.

It’s a similar story from Carol Kozopas, who lives in the rural Blue Mountains north of Toronto. Like many, she has multiple services with Rogers, including two cell phones, cable and home Internet. She was surprised and disappointed that even her home phone went offline that day.

“It’s all gone and you can be sure it won’t stay that way,” Kozopas told CBC News at the time. “Due to cell phone contracts, we can’t change them, but the home phone and modem can change.”

When contacted this week, Kozopas says she managed to get her family’s Rogers bill down by about $100 a month, to less than $500, but she’s still a customer.

“I didn’t leave Rogers because of the work involved in making changes,” he said.

Another Rogers client, Ted Engels, says that while it was “totally and utterly irresponsible” for a company as large as Rogers to centralize its entire system the way it did, he had no plans to cut off its service precisely because it uses it as a backup system for when your other network fails.

He lives on Toronto Island and runs a business from home that requires 24/7 connectivity.

“We have both service providers in case one goes down. We can connect the clinic’s systems to either of our phones,” he told CBC News in an interview.

“Both don’t go down at the same time.”

That’s why he says he has no intention of leaving the company entirely, but that doesn’t mean he’s a satisfied customer.

“There would have been no other place to go,” he said. “It’s just a joke.”

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