Your first shock when you first arrive in Canada is when you inquire about calling and data plans. Coming from a country like India, where almost 1 GB per day has been offered almost free everyday, paying $20 for the same 1 GB that too spread over a month can be quite a shock!! Telephony in Canada behaves more like an oligopoly and the few telecom operators have almost similar exorbitant plans. Before we discuss on how to choose the best plan, lets understand more about the market and different players.
Cellphone companies in Canada
The largest companies are Telus, Rogers and Bell. Goes without saying that they are the most expensive though they do have the best networks. Then there are players like Fido (owned by Rogers), Koodo (owned by Telus) and Virgin Mobile. These players are created by the large giants in order to cater to more cost conscious customers. They come with some sort of trade-off in terms of connectivity or coverage. Then there are discount carriers like Chatr and Public Mobile which are clearly the cheapest but have a lot of restrictions.
How to choose a cellphone operator
Some of the parameters important to consider before you choose a plan are:
Network coverage: Despite high costs, cellphone networks in Canada are not that great. Before you choose a specific operator, make some inquiries in places like your home and your office to check if any significant connectivity issues are involved.
Data needs: Some of us like to hog data while some of us look at cellphone as a cellphone plus a navigation device. Depending upon your data needs, evaluate which companies are offering you value for money for your needs. In case your office and residence has a wi-fi connection, your usage shall accordingly reduce.
Postpaid or pre-paid: Most consumers in Canada prefer a postpaid plan as compared to a pre-paid plan. The reason being that a postpaid account is treated as a credit account and hence helps build your credit history. But if you are here for a short trip, something like a pre-paid number makes more sense. Some postpaid customers landed have landed with a bill of thousands of dollars, once they exceeded their usage of the required amount of data. Do not forget to ready the fine print after buying a postpaid plan. I remember reading somewhere that even if you have 5 GB of monthly data, you cannot use it in a single day else as that is prorated with some limits. Else you will end up with extra charges for that particular day. In case you decide to buy a pre-paid plan, please be aware that some plans work on a lower technology like 3G and hence your speeds shall be accordingly impacted.
Need to buy a cellphone: If you are planning to buy a premium Iphone or Samsung phone, buying it through a plan is a good idea. Most companies offer exciting plans where you have to sign a 2 year contract and you will be given a new phone along with a calling/data plan. Depending upon how premium the device is, you may also be required to pay a particular down payment. The first pointer being that don't hesitate to walk around and negotiate a deal. Store Managers have a lot of flexibility, especially if they have adequate inventory, to offer you discount. You can also negotiate something like store credit or a Google Home instead of a cash discount. The second pointer being try to negotiate two or three accounts at once, like for you and your wife or your friend. Sometimes you can get pretty good deals that way as the second plan on a second device is substantially lower than the first one. In fact you can increase no. of connections by adding a tab as well. I bought a tab completely free of cost along with additional 3 GB of data for a recurring fee of $5 a month along with a $100 discount upfront. Third pointer being that if you are already with a different operator, sometimes there are incentive schemes where the new operator will be willing to give you a $100 or $200 credit per account. Fourth pointer being try to target buying a plan during a celebrated shopping day. We bought our plans on Boxing day where there were some crazy discounts around.
How to choose a number?
Choosing a number is important as your number is going to be key point of communication for your networking needs and an easy to remember number can be a good asset. Remember, once you choose your number, you can migrate it to another operator and thus can retain it. I got my first connection with Telus. When activating your sim, it will ask you to create an online account and you will have the facility to choose a number. Premium numbers are expensive and I did not want to pay extra to buy it. So I kept on regenerating a new number for a long time till I came across something that I found easy to remember. Later I migrated my number to Rogers as Telus had really expensive plans and retained my number.
Some best plans
Different operators continue to change their plans and there could hardly be a best plan for a long time. Speaking from my experience, I would like to rank the plans depending on their costs in decreasing order Telus, Rogers, Bell > Virgin Mobile, Koodo, Fido > Chatr, Public Mobile. Read here about some of the best Pre-paid plans. Read here to about some best Postpaid plans.