Canada has three national mobile providers:
This is added by their MVNOs and other regional providers like Wind, SaskTel and MTS Mobility.
Frequencies and coverageEdit
In Canada (like in the US) CDMA- and GSM-based networks coexist (see Basics chapter USA) in 2G, but from 3G on all networks operate on the GSM-based UMTS system only. This gives them a far better compatibility with devices from overseas. CDMA is not compatible with GSM phones and on CDMA devices, you can't change the SIM card (see US section for further details)
On 2G (GPRS/EDGE) Rogers is the only GSM-provider in the country on 850 and 1900 Mhz with good coverage. On 3G (UMTS, HSPA+) Rogers competes with Telus and Bell all on 850 and 1900 Mhz, all three with very good coverage in the populated areas. The coverage of Telus and Bell is almost identical and similar to Rogers, and the 3G network is solid enough that you won't mind the absence of 2G GSM if your phone supports their 3G. Wind has a very limited coverage in some cities only on 3G at the rare 1700 Mhz frequency incompatible with devices from Asia/Europe. MTS is limited to Manitoba and SaskTel to Saskatschewan.
Like in the US, in Canada UMTS-based HSPA+ and DC-HSPA+ used to be called "4G". Real 4G/LTE began some years ago on the Big Three networks on 700 and 1700 Mhz. Rogers and Bell support additionally the 2600 Mhz frequency, which is far more compatible with devices from overseas. Where Bell uses it as a backup in the cities only, Rogers deploys it throughout its LTE network.
GSM-frequencies used in Canada
|Rogers||850, 1900 Mhz||850, 1900 Mhz||700, 1700, 2600 Mhz|
|Bell||n/a (CDMA)||850, 1900 Mhz||700, 1700, 2600 Mhz|
|Telus||n/a (CDMA)||850, 1900 Mhz||1700 Mhz|
|Wind||n/a||1700 Mhz (AWS)||
In Canada all providers are geared rather to postpaid customers with contracts than to prepaid clients. Sadly, this is true to all networks and MVNOs which don’t really compete for prepaid resulting in only few choices. That’s why in Canada are probably the highest prices for prepaid voice, text and data on the American continent right now. Like in all of North America in Canada prices are always net prices without taxes. So 5-15% sales taxes apply additionally depending on province.
Rogers (Fido)EditRogers and its MVNOs Fido and Chatr give probably the best compatibility for devices from overseas. It’s the market leader in Canada and the only national provider who offers GSM-based 2G on 850 and 1900 Mhz up to EDGE. Its 3G is on the same frequencies on par with Telus and Bell. But unlike its competitors, Rogers can offer a fallback to 2G. 4G LTE is on 700, 1700 and 2600 Mhz. As of mid 2014, Rogers provides LTE data speeds on Prepaid accounts.
For details see Rogers coverage map. It doesn't offer 3G and 4G in the province of Saskatchewan. Rogers Coverage Map
Availability and start-upEdit
Rogers and Fido SIMs can be purchased online to be sent to a Canadian postal address, in their own shops and at many independent mobile retailers. Rogers Store Locator: here. Fido store locator: here
Corporate stores (and kiosks) for both Rogers and Fido do not charge for SIM cards when purchased in conjunction with any prepaid plan. Any other wireless shop will charge $10.00 CAD for a SIM card.
The mother company has mandatory prepaid plans without data on which data addons can be booked. The cheapest monthly plan is the “Talk anytime” for 0.75$ per month and a minimum topup of 10$. You can add the following monthly packs:
|Value||10 $||15 $||25 $||30 $||50 $|
|Data||100 MB||250 MB||500 MB||1 GB||2 GB|
The add-ons can be booked online on your Rogers account or by calling 611 from your Rogers phone. The default data rate outside of packages is a choice you get before accessing data: 1 $ for 10 MB in 24 hours or 5$ for 60 MB in 7 days.Best value is the 50 USD plan.
FidoEditThe rates are very similar to Rogers. Their cheapest monthly prepaid plan is free and called “40c Anytime”. Three different monthly packs can be purchased:
- 100 MB for 10 $, overuse: 0.15$/MB
- 500 MB for 20 $, overuse: 0.05$/MB
- 1 GB for 30 $, overuse: 0.05$/MB
Default rate without packs is like Rogers 1$ for 10 MB in 24 hours or 5$ for 60 MB in 7 days
Rogers and Fido moved to a new credit card processing system in 2011. As a result, you can no longer top up your account with a foreign credit card. If you go to a Rogers or Fido store in Canada, you must use cash as the store credit card readers will not accept foreign credit cards as well. This only applies to corporate stores, however, so look for third-party dealers if you wish to use your credit card from home. Top up vouchers of 10, 20, 30, 40 and 100$ are available. The vouchers 10-40$ give a validity of 30 days, the 100$ of 1 year. So you can't keep your SIM alive topping up from abroad. The only workaround solution to save the SIM is a Canadian prepaid VISA like the 3V-Voucher card available in stores to be combined with the SIM.
- Tethering: a profile for the iPhone is only supplied with data packs of 1 GB or more.
- APN for Rogers: internet.com; Username: wapuser1; Password: wap
- APN for Fido: internet.fido.ca; Username and Password: fido
Telus (Koodo)EditTelus and its MVNO Koodo have a 2G, 3G and 4G only network which is on par with Rogers with no fallback to 2G. However the 3G network is excellent - as long as your phone is compatible you won't miss 2G. Their 3G is identical with Bell as they share the same wireless footprint. A device capable of 850 and 1900 Mhz in 3G or 1700 Mhz in 4G is essential. For coverage map click on coverage. Note that even if your GSM phone also supports CDMA, TELUS will not authorize it on their CDMA network. In mid-2015 TELUS will begin to decommission the CDMA network.
Start-up and availabilityEdit
The SIM cards are available in micro, mini and nano format online or at Telus stores (store locator) or Kodoo stores (store locator) for 10 $ without credit. Make the activation in the store at the self service internet terminals as you need an online connection for it.
With Telus you don't need to book a prepaid plan. Data without package is 2 $ per MB. The following monthly packs are on offer and can be added online:
|100 MB||7 days||25 $||free domestic voice, free text|
|250 MB||14 days||50 $||free domestic voice, free text|
|100 MB||30 days||20 $||free text|
|200 MB||30 days||30 $||free dom. evening voice, free text|
|300 MB||30 days||35 $||free dom. weekend voice, free txt|
Overuse is charged with 0.15 $ per MB.
KoodoEditWith Koodo you must book a monthly base plan for at least 15 $ to be added by these data "boosters":
- 100 MB for 10 $
- 500 MB for 20 $
- 1 GB for 30 $
Telus and Koodo offer top-up through any international credit card (unlike Rogers). They also sell top-up cards through various retail outlets like supermarkets, gas stations or pharmacies. 10$ gives 30 days of validity, 25$ and 50$ 60 days and 100$ one year. After that, the SIM is useless anymore and the remaining credit lost.
- APN for Telus with smartphones: sp.telus.com
- APN for Telus with modems and routers: isp.telus.com
- APN for Koodo: sp.koodo.com
- Proxy for Telus and Koodo: 126.96.36.199
BellEditBell is like Telus. For 3G you need a 850 and 1900 Mhz device. The coverage is identical with Telus. On 4G its on 700, 1700 and additionally on 2600 Mhz (see Basics). 4G/LTE is given out for prepaid. Bell Coverage Map
Availability and start-upEdit
Bell is the only operator in Canada who gives out prepaid SIM cards focussed on data to be used in tablets mainly. But they can be used in smartphones and modems as well. Prepaid SIM cards for data are sold in Bell shops (store locator) for 5 $ without credit. No ID necessary, they only ask for your name. They activate the SIM in store and give you your number that is assigned to that SIM.
These plans you activate online in store or later after having recharged. They are the only plans which don't have to be locked to a (Canadian) credit card. You can use Bells refill vouchers instead. The plans renew automatically after 30 days if there is credit. To stop, you must call customer service or cancel it online:
- 100 MB: 10 $ Overuse: 0.15 $ per MB
- 500 MB: 25 $ Overuse: 0.05 $ per MB
- 1 GB: 30 $ Overuse: 0.05 $ per MB
- 2 GB: 50 $ Overuse: 0.05 $ per MB
Unlimited Bell wifi is included.
You can recharge your SIM with a (mostly Canadian) credit card. Otherwise, you can buy refill cards in many stores like supermarkets, gas stations and pharmacies. $15 give 30 days validity, $25 and $50 give 60 days and $100 a year. After that, your account will be closed, the SIM deactivated and the credit is lost.
- for an extra 10 $ per month you can get a tethering profile to build a mobile hotspot
- APN: pda.bell.ca
- Proxy: web.wireless.bell.ca
Phonebox (Rogers, Telus and Bell networks) Edit
PhoneBox is a mobile wireless Canadian company which is providing cheap phone plans on the best networks in Canada without any commitment.
Created in 2011 in Vancouver, Phonebox conquered the Canadian market while developing in all Canada: Vancouver, Toronto, Calgary and Montreal.
Advantaged of Phonebox:
- Competitive prices
- Best network in Canada: Telus, Rogers and Bell
- No commitment
- You can buy, rent or BYOD (bring your own telephone).
Multilingual customer service: Russian, Korean, Portuguese, Mandarin, Cantonese, Japanese, English, French, Ukrainian…
Start-up and availability
With Phonebox you can obtain a sim card (nano, micro or regular) and Bring Your Own Device, Rent a device or buy a new device in one of their store (store locator) for $10. You just have to bring your ID and a credit card.
Phonebox offers monthly plans without any engagement:
- $29: 400 mn of local calls, no data, unlimited text messages
- $39: 400 mn of local calls, 400 mb of data, unlimited text messages
With these 2 boxes $29 and $39 you can choose 1 bonus for free among: Free international calls (including in the 400mn), Free incoming calls, Unlimited local calls in the evening and on the weekend, +100 MB of Data (only for $39).
- $49: 1000 mn of local calls, 1 GB, unlimited text messages
- $59: Unlimited local calls, 2 GB of data, unlimited text messages
- $79: Unlimited local calls, 6 GB of data, unlimited text messages
In Montreal you can also have the Flex plans without any commitment:
- $29: Unlimited nation-wide calls and text messages in Canada, no data
- $39: Unlimited nation-wide calls and text messages in Canada, 500 mb of data ($10/500mb)
- $59: Unlimited nation-wide calls and text messages in Canada, 3 GB of data ($10/500mb)
By choosing the Flex plans $39 and $59, you have a volume of data included (respectively 500 MB for the Flex plan $39 and 3 GB for the Flex plan 3 GB) and you will have to pay $10 + taxes when you use more data per additional 500 MB.
7-Eleven Speak out and Petro Canada MobilityEditThese MVNOs operate on the good Rogers network in 2G and 3G (see Basics and Rogers for details).
7-Eleven SIM cards are available in 7-Eleven stores and online. The stores can be found only in the provinces of Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario and Saskatchewan (store locator), not in Quebec for instance, though the SIMs operate nationwide. They are 10 $ and are available in standard and micro SIM sizes.
The Petro Canada SIM is available in all participating gas stations of the biggest chain in the country (store locator) nationwide for 5 $ start up price.
The big advantage of this 7/11 card is that a recharge of only $25 keeps it alive for one year. Recharge coupons can be bought at 7-Eleven stores and at www.speakout7eleven.ca. The top-up can be applied online or on the phone.
Recharges on Petro Canada are valid 15$ for 30 days, 25$, 30$ and 40$ for 120 days, 50$ for 180 days and 100$ for a year. Refill cards at the gas stations.
Data packagesEditThey have only one data pack to be added to the pay-as-you-go rate:
100 MB per month for 10 $. To add the 100 MB data add-on, you must have an airtime balance greater than $12.00, and your account must not expire within the next 30 days. Data usage over 100 MB within 30 days from activation date will be charged at $0.10 per MB. Packs renew every month. To start or stop log online to your account or call customer service at 611.
Alternatively, they sell monthly value plans including domestic calls and unlimited texts to Canada and the US:
- 100 domestic minutes for 20 $
- 200 domestic minutes for 25 $
- 300 domestic minutes for 30 $
These value plans can be added by the following monthly data packs each:
- 100 MB: 10 $
- 500 MB: 15 $ (on the $20 plan only on 7/11 SIM)
- 1 GB: 25 $ (all plans only on 7/11 SIM)
Plans and data add-ons can be managed (booked and cancelled) on your online account.
Virgin MobileEditVirgin Mobile in Canada is owned by Bell. So it works as a MVNO on Bell's network on 3G. 4G/LTE is given out for prepaid too (see Basics and Bell for details).
The SIM card is sold for $4.99 in their stores (store locator) (prepaid description) in micro, nano and mini size. There you have to choose a plan. The only prepaid plan without a base rate is the by-the-minute plan. Default rate for data is 1 $ for 10 MB in 24 hours. Top-up cards are available in the Virgin stores and lots of pharmacies and supermarket. 15$ give 30 days of validity, 25$ and 50$ give 60 days and 100$ one year. After that account and SIM will be discontinued and credit lost.
Data feature packsEdit
These monthly data add-ons are available:
|Value||10 $||25 $||35 $|
|Data||100 MB||500 MB||1 GB|
- APN: inet.bell.ca
- Proxy: web.wireless.bell.ca
WIND CanadaEditWIND in Canada has at the present a very limited coverage. It is on 3G only on the 1700 Mhz (AWS) frequency. So it's very likely that a device from Europe/Asia won't work, but a phone or modem from T-Mobile USA will do.On this coverage map the Wind network is in red only where speeds up to DC-HSPA+ are reached. Don't be misled by the orange of the roaming network where data costs extra.
Data feature packsEdit
For those who have Wind coverage, it offers the lowest prices in the country. You have to disable roaming as within the roaming networks (Wind shows an "away coverage") data is charged with 0.05 $ per MB extra.
The following monthly plans are offered for data-only SIMs and are valid for WIND's own coverage only:
- 1 GB: 15 $
- 3 GB: 25 $
- "unlimited": 35 $
The fair use policy for the "unlimited" plan is 10 GB.
The SIM card is available for 25 $ in their stores (store locator) where you can buy refills as well.
- APN for smartphones: internet.windmobile.ca
- APN for modems and routers: broadband.windmobile.ca
SimiliciousEditSimilicious specializes in prepaid data plans for short-term stays and people traveling within Canada. As a value-added service, Similicious will deliver the SIM card to the traveler's hotel or preferred location. To qualify, the mobile device must be compatible to 3G in 850 and 1900 Mhz and unlocked. Similicious offers free SIM cards to users and charges are based strictly on the usage package that is selected.
Data feature packsEdit
- 500 MB - $ 45
- 1 GB - $ 50
- 2 GB - $ 70
- 100 MB + 15 min domestic calls + unlimited domestic text - $ 45
- 250 MB + 50 min domestic calls + unlimited domestic text - $ 75
- 500 MB + 50 min domestic calls + unlimited domestic text - $ 85
More info online here: www.similicious.com