One of the most important steps as a newcomer to Canada is to choose your cell phone plan. It can be quite distressing as the Canadian system is quite different from most countries. This article will try and help you get accustomed to the ins and outs of choosing the right plan and the right carrier.
The Basics of the Canadian system
There are a few things to know before looking at carriers and plans:
- If you don't choose an unlimited plan, your income calls as well as your outgoing calls are billable. If you don't have money left on your prepaid phone, you won't be able the receive any calls!
- The prices shown on the carrier's website or in-store are before tax. You will need to add between 5% and 15% of tax depending on your province/territory. You will also have to add the 911 (Emergency number) service fee of less than 1$ (depends also on your province/territory).
- Your phone will be locked if you buy it on a plan with a carrier, which means you will not be able to use a SIM card from another carrier unless you pay an unlocking charge of about $50.
- Some features, such as caller ID and voicemail, as charged extra in some plans. You will have to check if they are included or not.
- Some plans only include unlimited calls in your area and not Canada-wide, and calls outside your area could be charged big extras.
How much does a plan cost?
You may either get (i) a prepaid billing system where you need to refill your account by purchasing extra minutes, or (ii) a monthly bill for the cell phone service.
If your cellphone usage is important, a prepaid billing system comes up more expensive than a per-month billing system. You better get a plan, with a contract (if you buy a phone with it) or without a contract (no phone).
Phone costs are pretty expensive, compared to other countries. According to the CRTC 2016 figures, Canadian mobile wireless average prices for 450 minutes and 300 texts were at $48.77, vs. $25,79 for the U.K., $24,17 for France, $28,28 for Germany. But need not worry, there are some low-cost providers (some using nationwide coverage) with plans of unlimited Canada-wide calls, texts, and 6Gb of data for less than $50.
List of Important Cell Phone Carriers
Below the list of the three most important cell phone carriers, Rogers, Bell and Telus, and their low-cost brands. Other carriers either have a province-limited coverage (Freedom Mobile, Vidéotron, ...) or are paying the big three to use their coverage (7-Eleven Speakout, Petro Canada, ...)
Also owned by Rogers Communications, Chatr is Roger's most budget-conscious carrier. It uses the same networks as Roger’s other carriers, but minimizes costs by providing coverage only in designated “Chatr” zones. When Chatr customers use their phones outside their designated areas, additional charges apply.
Also owned by Bell Canada Enterprises, Virgin Mobile is a national wireless carrier, sister company of Bell Mobility, that emphasizes on lower-cost plans to compete with the discount plans offered by other wireless carriers. Virgin Mobile operate on the same CDMA, HSPA and LTE networks as Bell Mobility.
Also owned by Telus Communications, Koodo Mobile is a national wireless carrier with a focus on lower-priced phone plans to compete head on with the discount plans offered by other wireless carriers. Koodo operates on Telus' CDMA, HSPA and LTE networks. Koodo employs the concept of a Tab which allows users to accumulate credit towards a new phone.