The Best Canadian Cellphone Network

Maple Leaf PhoneI’m writing this article because I recently bought an iPhone 4 and I got my fingers burnt numerous times by the reseller, WirelessWave, and the network, Fido. Perhaps I can help to inform other Canadians about their choices. At the very least, don’t do what I did. Don’t rush into signing up without looking into the details of each network, and without checking out the claims that some of the networks make.

What I’m going to do is take a middling tier from each network, because that’s what suits my needs, and briefly talk about each network and plan. I will try to compare plans that are similar, but there are often little extras (and little catches) here and there that attempt to sweeten the deal.

Each plan has the iPhone in mind, but the plans are compatible with all smartphones. The iPhone costs $159 with all carriers except Koodo, who do not offer the phone. You would have to buy it for $659 from Apple or elsewhere. This is $10 more than the subsidised cost, but the phone would not be locked to any particular network. Lastly, most networks charge an arbitrary $35 connection fee. Some networks waive it during promotional periods because it is just a cash grab, anyway. Some networks don’t charge if you activate online or by phone, etc.. etc..

In no particular order:


$35 unlimited minutes in your ‘home city’, unlimited texts (incoming, outgoing, international but NOT MMS)
$25 for 500mb data

$10 for voicemail! (and Call Display)
25c per minute when outside of your ‘home city’

Fido Dollars are credited to your account as you pay your bills at a rate of ~5%. Fido Dollars can be used to buy phones or accessories from the (incredibly limited) online store.

You are blocked from roaming for 3 months
You are blocked from calling abroad for 3 months
Tethering is disabled unless you pay for 1GB ($30 instead of $25)

Total = $70 ($75 if you want tethering and extra data)

150 minutes instead of Unlimited home city = $65 ($70 tethering etc…)

Why Fido sucks:

MMS costs extra. 50c per message. Too expensive. $5 extra per month gets you 100 MMS messages (5c per message), but other networks manage to include MMS. Why don’t Fido?

There is absolutely no justification in charging $10 a month for voicemail and Call Display. In some circumstances, providing these services can actually RAISE revenue. Why? Because an unanswered call has no chance of raising revenue. A call answered by a voicemail service where someone leaves you a message incurs a call charge or depletion of minutes – revenue for the networks. Call Display allows you to see who called, and you might choose to return that call. Again, revenue for the cellphone networks. While there might be costs in maintaining and setting up a voicemail service, $10 per customer per month is a disgrace. With around 2 million customers, even if less than a quarter of them pay for voicemail, that equates to tens of millions of dollars every month. Scandalous.

In the case of Fido, the idea of a city based zone is a bit of a joke. Fido is owned by Rogers. The cell towers are owned by Rogers. Whether you are in Toronto, Ontario or Salmon Arm, Alberta, there is no relevant extra cost to Rogers. They are just putting up invisible walls in the hope that they can charge you for nonsensicle reasons. The newer networks like Wind and Public ONLY have coverage in major cities on their own networks. Wind customers outside of Wind’s coverage automatically switch to Rogers and Public’s customers automatically switch to Telus. Wind and Public have to pay Rogers and Telus for this facility, so zoning makes sense. Fido and Rogers are just taking the piss.

There is no reason for Fido to disable tethering for customers who only need 500mb of data at $25 a month. Actually, there is one reason. To make you buy more data, even if you don’t need it. Instead of paying $5 a month, you could jailbreak your phone and get MyWi from Cydia for a one off payment of $20, but it is possible for networks to spot this behaviour.

I have had a phone since 1992 in both Canada and The UK. I have never been blocked from calling abroad or from roaming – until Fido, and I was not informed I would be blocked. They refused to remove the block when I travelled to The USA. Away from home, I couldn’t call my mother on her birthday. When I complained about it on Twitter via a wifi connection, they then proceeded to try to call me. They couldn’t get hold of me because they were calling my cellphone which they had blocked. Brilliant!



200 minutes to local numbers
Call/text 3 numbers for free
Call after 9pm for free
500mb of Data

You can then choose one of:
1.Double your minutes
2.Have 5 pre-determined numbers you can call for free (instead of 3)
3.Unlimited texting (incoming and outgoing and MMS)

If you don’t choose Unlimited texting, you have to pay 15c per message (including incoming messages!!!)

Voicemail, Call waiting and conference calling is included

All local calls are free on your birthday

Calls outside of your plan are 40c/min

Total: $50

Or, for 300 minutes/1gig of data: $65

Why Telus Sucks:

Charging for incoming text messages is outragous. It is another example of Canadian networks charging for ficticious nonsense. A text message sent from one Telus customer to another Telus customer is being paid for twice.

Telus (and Bell, as they share their 3G/4G network) have a slightly inferior network setup. If you turn data off on your phone, you will be unable to send or receive text messages. Turning off data would not be a regular problem, but it might be something you wish to do if you are running close to your data allowance and you do not want to use extra. The reasons are technical, but essentially it is because neither Telus nor Bell have 2G ‘backup’ networks.

Bell (and Telus, by extension) advertise that they have Canada’s only 4G network. It is not truley 4G. According to the ITU (International Telecommunications Union), networks who provide a 3G network that is “substantially better in performance and capability” than an older 3G network can call it 4G. 4G networks were supposed to be able to offer peak speed of 1Gbit/s (120 megabytes per second), but Telus and Bell do not come near this. Even if they did, even the most modern phones cannot handle anything like 4G speeds, so it is a completely empty claim.



Almost identicle to Telus, except:

Free calling begins at 6pm instead of 9pm

The 3 bonus choices are the same, but you can also choose from a couple more options:
1.Unlimited Bell to Bell calling (including landlines)
2.Free calling from 5pm instead of 6pm

You don’t get the free birthday calling

If you have a relationship with Bell (tv, DSL or home phone), they may offer a package that makes them the best choice.

Bell sucks for the same reasons as Telus!



200 mins to local numbers, free after 9pm
Unlimited texting (incoming and outgoing and MMS)
500mb data


Then choose one of:
Unlimited texting (Canada)
Unlimited minutes/texts to 5 numbers
Unlimited local minutes
Double your minutes
Free calling after 6pm (instead of 9pm)
Calls outside of your plan cost 40c/min
Voicemail and other network services are included

Total: $50

Or for 300 minutes/1gig of data: $65

Rogers also offers family/couples plans, which might be better value.

If you have a relationship with Rogers (cable TV and/or internet), they may offer a package that makes them the best choice.

Why Rogers Sucks

I don’t have anything extra to say about Rogers that isn’t already covered, but their deal is not as competitive as Bell or Telus.


Koodo are a funny one. They are hard to quantify because, like a pizza, you can build your own package from scratch. They also don’t provide the iPhone. If that is the phone you want, you would have to buy it from apple for $659. If you factor in the cost of an iPhone over three years ($13/month) and you go for the bare bones contract, you can get it for a similar price to the other networks. i.e., Around $65 – but you get less minutes, texts and no voicemail.

However, if you care less about the phone and go for a Blackberry AND you still don’t care about getting very few minutes and texts, Koodo could be the cheapest “no frills” network.

Why Koodo sucks
They are owned by Telus, so similar complaints apply. Additionally, if you try to build a similar package to those mentioned above AND you factor in the cost of an iPhone, you are looking at around $90 a month. Significantly more than the other networks.

They charge for Voicemail ($6) or voicemail and other network services ($10), which I’ve already covered.


200 Minutes, free after 6pm
Free to 10 numbers
Unlimited texting (including MMS)
1gig data

Voicemail is extra, but their site wasn’t quite working correctly when I tried to add it. It was listed as $10 with some plans. Other times it is $8. Ah well.

Total: $65

Why Virgin suck

Virgin are owned by Bell, so the same complaints apply. Added to this is the same complaint about voicemail.

In summary:

If you have cable/dsl/tv service with Bell or Rogers, you should opt for a package deal with your current operator.
If you live with someone else who wants to get a plan at the same time, a Rogers family/couple plan is probably the best deal.
If you almost exclusively want to use data and you don’t mind footing a $659 bill upfront, Koodo could be a good deal.

If you are looking for an all-round plan with calls, text and data then Bell is probably the best choice. Telus is almost identical, but with less bonus options – however you do get free calls on your birthday with Telus. With both of these network, definately take the text package. If you don’t, you pay for incoming texts. If you really don’t want to have the text package but you anticipate receiving text messages, Rogers is worth considering. They are the same price, without charging for incoming texts, but their bonus packages are slightly less attractive.

Least best network for an all-round plan is probably Koodo, because their packages add up pretty quickly. Also avoid Fido, unless you don`t want voicemail, tethering or the use of your phone to call abroad or when roaming.

Check with your employer. Some may offer a staff discount with Rogers, Bell or Telus.

Networks might be able to offer a more competitive plan if you play them against each other. This is especially true if you are already with a network and you threaten to migrate. Networks have ‘retention’ departments whose job is to convince you to stay.

I have not included Wind Mobile or Public Mobile because their networks use non-standard frequency bands that are not compatible with the vast majority of phones and because they are not national carriers. However, if you don’t intend to travel and you’re not too bothered about the phone you use, they are competitive networks. I have not included Chatr Wireless because they are a mickey mouse company set-up by Rogers. They have artificial zones like City Fido, and the entire set-up and pricing is just an anti-competitive ploy by Rogers designed to harm Wind Mobile and Public Mobile. That’s my opinion – but it is also actual fact 😉

And now it’s time to be a bit cheeky 🙂

Orange UK

Orange UK

Instead of $159 upfront for the phone, you pay £79.99 ($144.50)

900 minutes
Unlimited texting
500mb data
Free voicemail and network services

2 for the price of 1 entry to cinemas every Wednesday

Free calls to a favourite number. Add an extra number every 6 months (so 4, after 2 years).

Total: £40 ($64)

Note that these prices INCLUDE sales tax, whereas the Canadian network prices do not (so if you take off 20% UK sales tax the montly price with Orange suddenly becomes a very attractive $44 and the phone price becomes $125)

Note that the contract (and the subsidisation of the phone) is 2 years, which represents a total payment of $44 * 24 months = $1056 + $125 for the phone – Total: $1181

Bell’s contract and phone: $1959, and you have to complete a 3 year contract. The difference in price is more than $750 (£460) and you NEVER pay for incoming calls in The UK.

One thought on “The Best Canadian Cellphone Network

  1. John

    Great blog! Very interesting. I am also from the UK but now live in Canada. I find it crazy how cheap its is for a mobile phone back over in the UK nowadays, but yet they have to charge so much in Canada! I went back home for Christmas and New Year and was getting 200 minutes, unlimited texts and 1gb data on giffgaff for 10 pounds ($15) for the month!


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