The cell phone has become an absolute necessity in the first decade of the 21st century. Gone are the days of conducting business face-to-face; today, you can have a cell phone deliver all your usual conveniences at the touch of a finger. This was most evident during the recent Covid-19 pandemic when many platforms for remote work, collaboration and services shot into the limelight.
Modern humans have an unparalleled ability to stay connected to the world and rely on it for most of their needs. We can safely assume that everyday life would collapse without the cell phone.
The same holds for immigrants to Canada, especially during the vital early months of immigration when they must sort out official proceedings and their living situation. A phone lets you remain in contact with government offices and receive updates while staying in touch with your loved ones back home.
Fortunately, cell phones and providers operate the same way here as the rest of the world. It’s easy to approach a provider and get hooked up with a new device and plan.
How Expensive are Cell phone plans in Canada?
A common surprise for new immigrants is the severely inflated fees for cell phone service here. A study by Rewheel on the state of 4G and 5G pricing for the first half of 2022 found prices in the Canadian wireless market were among the highest in the world. To put things into perspective, the monthly fee for a 4G/5G smartphone plan with at least 1000 mins, 10 Mbit/s and 100 Gb was fourteen times more expensive in Canada than in France. The study also blamed the duopoly within the Canadian telecom market for the high rates.
But don’t let any of this put you off. We’ll give you some pointers to cut down your expenditures and answer some basic questions regarding cell phone service in Canada.
Do I bring my own device, or purchase a new cell phone from a Canadian provider?
Bringing your own device is cheaper and more convenient for an immigrant. Just ensure that the phone is unlocked (not tied to a specific carrier) and compatible with Canadian mobile frequencies. All major carriers offer Bring your own (BYO) phone plans, so you should have no trouble.
How can I buy a cell phone in Canada?
The alternative to a BYO plan is to buy a cell phone in Canada. Nowadays, you can find one at any local store, online markets or with a Provider.
You can buy a Carrier phone that comes locked with a certain provider and plan, or an Unlocked phone without a provider. Both options have their pros and cons.
|Carrier Phone||Providers give you the option of purchasing a phone at a lower upfront cost, with monthly instalments.||You have lesser mobility with Carrier phones. You’ll have to pay off the phone before switching to another provider.|
|Providers offer better warranties and insurance.||Some carriers have a limited selection of phones and may not offer cheaper, older options. Be wary if you’re on a budget|
|Unlocked Phone||Unlocked phones give you the freedom to choose your service provider.||Most unlocked phones require you to pay the entire cost upfront.|
|Unlocked phones are handy when travelling outside the reach of Canadian providers.|
What are the different types of phone plans in Canada?
Providers offer similar plans to the rest of the world in terms of structure. These include:
- Pay-as-you-go- This is ideal for customers with limited phone usage as it comes with no recurring charges or commitments. You pay for an unlimited or set amount of usage for a given day. The rates are usually higher in this format.
- Prepaid Plan- This format allows you to pay upfront for your usage.
- Contract or postpaid- This is the most common plan among Canadian users. You are billed monthly based on the plan and your usage. Contract plans sometimes require a Canadian credit check before approval. Keep that in mind if you’re a newcomer without a credit history in Canada.
- Family plans- These plans are for multiple phones and offer better discounts and features like parental control for families with children.
Major cell phone provider in Canada
The Canadian Telecom market is cornered by three of the largest providers, Rogers, Bell and Telus. Critics often blame this Monopoly for the expensive ḍata rates across the country. In their defence, providing cell phone service to a country the size of Canada without some serious investments is not easy.
Other alternatives to these three include their flanker brands (which are essentially extensions of the parent company) like Lucky Mobile and Virgin Mobile (Bell), Fido and Chatr (Rogers), Koodo and Public Mobile (Telus).
How many Cell phone providers are there in Canada?
Below is a list of all mobile network providers, as shown on consumer.ca, with links to their coverage and stores.
|Bell Mobility||Bell||Operator||Map||Find a Store|
|Lucky Mobile||Bell||MVNO||Map||Find a Store|
|Virgin Mobile||Bell||MVNO||Map||Find a Store|
|Bell MTS||Bell||MVNO||Map||Find a Store|
|Execulink Mobility||Bell||MVNO||Map||Find a Store|
|PC Mobile||Bell||MVNO||Map||Find a Store|
|Rogers Wireless||Rogers||Operator||Map||Find a Store|
|Chatr Mobile||Rogers||MVNO||Map||Find a Store|
|Cityfone||Rogers||MVNO||Map||Find a Store|
|Fido Mobile||Rogers||MVNO||Map||Find a Store|
|Primus Wireless||Rogers||MVNO||Map||Find a Store|
|SimplyConnect||Rogers||MVNO||Map||Find a Store|
|Zoomer Wireless||Rogers||MVNO||Map||Find a Store|
|7-Eleven Speak Out Wireless||Rogers||MVNO||Map||Contact|
|good2go Mobile Canada||Rogers||MVNO||Find a Store|
|Petro-Canada Mobility||Rogers||MVNO||Map||Find a Store|
|Telus Mobility||Telus||Operator||Find a Store|
|Koodo Mobile||Telus||MVNO||Map||Find a Store|
|Public Mobile||Telus||MVNO||Map||Find a Store|
|Freedom Mobile||Freedom Mobile||Operator||Map||Find a Store|
|Eastlink Wireless||Eastlink||Operator||Map||Find a Store|
|SaskTel Mobility||Sasktel||Operator||Find a Store|
|Vidéotron Mobile||Vidéotron/Rogers||Operator||Map||Find a Store|
|Fizz Mobile||Vidéotron/Rogers||MVNO||Map||Find a Store|
|Ice Wireless||Iristel||Operator||Map||Find a Store|
|K-Net Mobile||Keewaytinook Okimakanak||Operator||Map||Find a Store|
|Sogetel Mobilité||Sogetel||Operator||Find a Store|
|SSi Mobile/Qiniq||SSi Micro||Operator||Map||Find a Store|
|TbayTel Mobility||Tbaytel||Operator||Map||Find a Store|
|TNW Wireless||TNW Networks||Operator||Map||Find a Store|
|Xplore Mobile||Xplornet||Operator||Map||Find a Store|
How to choose a Cell Phone provider in Canada?
You’ll have to make an honest assessment of your requirements and daily usage. Are you the data hogger exceeding every data plan, or do you go days without ever opening a phone? Also, consider that you’ll be using up more phone data if you’re constantly on the move and rarely connect to a home Wi-Fi.
If you’re searching for a Provider with cheap phone plans, it might help to do a little research on sites like Planhub and Whistleout. The scene changes constantly, and plans vary according to demand and popularity.
Your location should also factor into your choice of Cell phone provider. While the three major carriers cover most of Canada, you can find better alternatives in local providers with cheap, budget-friendly plans depending on your location. Some examples include Videotron in Quebec, SaskTel in Saskatchewan, MTS in Manitoba and Freedom Mobile in Alberta, British Columbia and Ontario.
Will prices fall in the future?
The 2021 auction of the 3500 MHz spectrum in Canada- vital for implementing 5G networks, saw the government sell 1495 licenses for a record CAD 8.9 billion, with the Big Three accounting for more than 80% of the amount.
The rising cost of these spectrum licenses could mean higher prices for consumers down the road in the absence of meaningful competition.
As a newcomer, prepare to shell out more money on your monthly phone plans. Budget accordingly, be realistic and don’t expect the market to change too soon.