Do you want a new phone plan?
Me too, but it takes hours to look at ALL the options while interpreting the hidden terms and finer points.
Luckily, we’ve got you covered.
In this article, you’ll get a rundown of:
- the big 3,
- cell phone plans comparison,
- pros and cons of smaller companies,
- cell phone coverage map, and
- getting your cell phone internationally.
Want to know how to unlock your cell phone in less than 2 pages? Download the PDF version so you can be informed anywhere, anytime.
But first things first...
The big 3: Bell, Rogers and Telus
Let’s start with the largest companies on the market.
I'm going to do my best to break things down here, but each provider has a different way of building each plan, which makes things a bit confusing.
To keep this simple, let’s compare the cost for a premium smartphone purchase:
Samsung Galaxy S8 with 4GB data, unlimited text & local calls (likely to be on a 2-year contract):
|Big 3 companies||Up-front phone cost||Monthly price|
As you can see, these big 3 are sticking closely together – their offerings are similar and their prices are, too.
Rogers and Telus have more options for data, all the way up to 80GB, with Telus having the best deal at 80GB for $350, compared to Rogers’ offering of 80GB for $405. Bell has the least options regarding data and some of the higher prices.
But overall, there is little difference.
Cell phone plans comparison
Compared to the big 3, we will look at some of the smaller start-up companies who are building their own networks: Freedom and Eastlink. We will also look at some re-sellers like Cell Phone Man.
But before we dive in, there are a few things you should consider when searching for a new plan.
BYOD: Bring Your Own Device
What’s the deal if you already have your own phone? Do the big 3 have anything better to offer compared to the smaller startups?
If you don’t already have a phone, then head over to Kijiji, eBay, or Facebook Marketplace and buy a used one. Getting a used phone can save you some serious cash and free you from a binding contract.
Of course, it's important to be aware of stolen and illegal cell phones that often circulate on third party websites. So before purchasing any used phones, you should always input the IMEI at www.devicecheck.ca. You can get the IMEI number by entering *#06# on most devices.
If you’ve already been with one of the big 3, you likely have a device and have spent two years on a plan. Now is the time to free yourself from a contract and pay a simple monthly fee. You can get better rates from the big 3 this way or you might be able to find another company that is just getting into the market.
Related: Cell Phone Unlocking Explained
Sizing up the plans
We will take a look at three options: Each company’s cheapest plans (including data), the middle ground for price and options, and the biggest plans they have.
Each of the offers listed are based on plans where you bring your own cell phone to the deal. Most of these are build-your-own plans and prices will vary depending on the features you’ve selected.
Note: This table reflects available plans from Ontario, and will have some variation in prices across the country. Prices could change at any point, so for the most up-to-date offers and promotions, be sure to visit these sites directly.
A look at the smaller cell phone companies
While Bell, Rogers and Telus don’t offer much variation when it comes to competitive pricing, that doesn’t mean you won’t be able to find an alternative among some of the smaller cell phone companies.
But which company is worth committing to?
Freedom Mobile - 3G network
The drawback with Freedom Mobile is that they are only available in Ontario (mostly in Ottawa, Toronto, Mississauga and London), as well as parts of Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton.
If you aren’t located in these areas, then these plans aren’t much good to you. You will be able to access their partner networks, but you may be charged to get access as the network is small.
They aren’t all bad though. (Will Arnett is their spokesperson, so they must be doing something right!)
The plans seem to be competitive and the data is good. So if you are in the above mentioned areas, then Freedom Mobile is worth a look.
Public Mobile - 3G network
Public Mobile operates on the Telus Network. You will pay a $10 SIM card fee and $30/month for their cheapest plan and $40 for 1GB of data, which isn’t bad.
The one thing I find interesting is that these plans are on a 30-day cycle – it isn’t by month, specifically. You have to purchase for a period of time and it expires at the end of the cycle, so you have to "top up" or purchase again.
And, there are some perks:
- Refer a friend. For every friend you refer who stays with Public Mobile, you get $1 off every 30 days. That could stack up!
- Auto-pay. When you pre-authorize payments, you save $2 off every 30 days.
- Helping others. When you answer questions in the Public Mobile Community forums, you earn points that can add up to $20 off every 30 days. (Note: point systems are reliant on need and your involvement. You become part of the customer service team).
- Loyalty. Save $1 every 30 days after your first year. $2 every 30 days after your second year, and so on.
With all of these loyalty rewards, you could work yourself down to a free phone plan. But I did use the word, "work" for a reason.
Even though signing up for pre-authorized bill payments is easy, you still have to refer people. That is work. They have to stay and they may NOT want to. You also have to answer questions in the online forum, assuming there are available questions to be answered. And you have to commit to being a loyal customer for years.
Eastlink - 4G LTE network
The cool thing about Eastlink is that they are building their own infrastructure. Out of all the companies offering discounted plans, they are the ones who have their own towers.
They also offer extended coverage through their partnerships with major networks across the country.
Their roaming packages are pretty competitive, too. They offer $5/day when travelling to the U.S. and they have travel packs available at monthly rates from $30/month.
Eastlink also offers the option to buy a device on a 2-year plan, adding a small monthly fee, depending on the device you purchase. For example, an iPhone 7 will cost as little as $27/month. The new iPhone 8+ will cost an extra $35-$40/month.
Cellphone Man - 4G LTE network
Cellphone Man is a mobile reseller. It’s a company based in Saskatchewan, started by a guy who had worked in high level positions within four large telecom companies. He buys bulk plans at a discount and resells them to you for less.
They charge a set-up fee of $100 and you pay once the process is complete using paypal or e-transfer. They also accept bitcoin.
You get to keep your number and they will do the porting for you. The plans are with Koodo and include EasyRoam, which allows you to sign up and pay a daily fee for when you are roaming and using data abroad ($7/day in U.S. and $12 internationally).
Their process is relatively simple. Have a phone, have (or get) a plan and sign up with them.
It takes 30 minutes for them to port your number. They will send you a SIM Card, but you’ll need to keep your old card in your phone until the whole process is complete. And once your number is ported to them, your old account will be closed.
You will have to pay out the rest of the charges on your old account, but you will now be with your new company under their new rate.
Cell phone coverage map
The best phone coverage comes from Bell, with Rogers providing the next best coverage.
Just check out the maps below:
Bell’s phone coverage map
Rogers phone coverage map
The best way to see if you will have coverage when purchasing a plan is by going to the actual source. Check the company’s website and see what their coverage is like:
You can also cross-reference this information at Compare Cellular’s coverage map.
Out of all these companies, Bell has the largest network, though Rogers is a close second. Eastlink is the only 100% LTE network in Atlantic Canada providing the best coverage from the little guys and Freedom operates on their own small network, but mostly in Ontario cities, as mentioned above.
Who operates on Bell’s network?
Telus shares towers with Bell, but operates independently. Operating on the telus network are:
- Public Mobile
- Cell Phone Man
Who operates on Rogers’ network?
Who operates on Eastlink’s network?
Partnerships with Bell, Rogers, Telus and Videotron networks.
Getting your phone plan internationally
According to an article from Narcity, people are signing up for cell phone plans from France.
Yes, people are actually doing this, so I had to check it out.
Can you get a phone plan from another country?
If you go to Free Mobile, you can see that €19.99 ($30.27) will get you unlimited data in France, 25GB of roaming (includes Canada and US), unlimited SMS, unlimited calls from mainland France "to mobiles and landlines in Metropolitan France, to mobiles in the United States, Canada, China, DOM, and to landlines of 100 [other] destinations.
According to this, a person could just sign up for $30.27 and have 25 GB of data.
The catch is that it violates the fair use policy under the EU regulations. Apparently your provider can charge you extra or even terminate the policy.
Several people on Reddit have said that they have had this exact experience.
If you choose to do this, know that you are only buying yourself a few months. But if you think you can make it work, then try it out and let us know your results.
Which do you think is the best Canadian deal?
I had already signed up with Eastlink and bought a new iPhone when I heard about Cell Phone Man. If I had it to do all over again? I would choose Cell Phone Man or Eastlink. For data options, price, and coverage, they have some of the best plans.
But the choice is yours. Let us know what you decide and tell us why in the comments!