Exorbitant data rates keeping iPhone out of Canada?

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Steep wireless data rates may be the primary reason Canadians have not yet been treated to Apple Inc.'s revolutionary iPhone handset, according to one expert.

"The barrier to the iPhone in Canada is not Apple," says Michael Geist, Canada research chair of Internet and e-commerce law at the University of Ottawa. "Rather, it is the lack of wireless competition that [...] leads to pricing that places Canadians at a significant disadvantage compared with other developed countries."

In the U.S., AT&T's combined iPhone service and data plans start at just $59.99 for 450 anytime minutes, 5000 additional night and weekend minutes, and unlimited data. But in Canada, as Geist notes, a comparable plan for Rogers Wireless — the only carrier with an iPhone-compatible GSM network — would currently run about $295 per month.

Rogers charges $60 for 500 anytime minutes, $25 for an additional $500 anytime minutes and a whopping $210 for 500MB data plan. Unlike AT&T, the Canadian carrier does not offer an unlimited data plan and its monthly minutes do not rollover to the next month if they go unused.

If Rogers does introduce the iPhone to its customers, it will have to make major changes to its data pricing, Geist told Canada's National Post on Monday. "I don't see how you can have an iPhone with the pricing structure that they're offering," he said.

In an email advisory sent to subscribers earlier this year, Rogers said that it was still sorting out iPhone availability and pricing terms with Apple. However, the carrier confidently claimed that it would be the only Canadian provider to offer the Apple handset.

Since then, no further details on the matter have surface. However, a recent posting to Best Buy's Canadian website hinted that an announcement could be imminent.