As a newcomer, having a phone plan and internet service is essential to getting set up during your initial days in Canada. A basic understanding of various telecom providers and their service offerings can help you make an informed decision while choosing your first Canadian phone connection or home internet service.
In this article:
- Major phone and internet companies in Canada
- Concept of bundles
- Average cost of phone and internet plans
- Things to consider while choosing a phone/internet service provider
- Why credit is important while purchasing phone and internet plans
In Canada, the telecommunication (phone and internet) industry is reflective of a monopolistic market where majority presence is controlled by a relatively small number of companies. As a result, phone plans are very expensive, especially when data (internet on phone) is involved.
There are three major telecom companies in Canada that control approximately 91 per cent of the country’s telecom business. They are also known as the “Big Three” of Canadian telecom:
- Rogers Communications
- BCE Inc. (formerly known as Bell Canada)
- Telus Corporation
The other prominent telecom companies are:
- Shaw Communications: Shaw mainly caters to the Western provinces (mainly British Columbia and Alberta). In March 2021, Rogers announced a takeover of Shaw, making Shaw Communications a part of the Rogers network.
- Quebecor Inc.: It owns Videotron – the largest telecom company in Quebec.
- SaskTel: SaskTel is short for Saskatchewan Telecommunications Holding Corporation. It is the largest telecom company based in Saskatchewan. SaskTel is owned by the Government and is considered a crown-owned company.
These major telecom companies have smaller subsidiaries (or extension brands, also known as flanker brands) that allow them to differentiate their service offerings and offer competitive price points on phone and internet plans, thus enabling a broader reach of market segments and subscribers. Their service offerings typically consist of fixed line phone and mobile connections, cable television subscriptions, and internet plans.
Here’s an overview of key players in the telecom space:
|Telecom Provider||Brands and subsidiaries|
|Rogers||Rogers Wireless, Fido Mobile, Chatr Mobile, Cityfone, Primus Wireless, Zoomer Wireless, SimplyConnect|
|BCE||Bell Mobility, Virgin Mobile, Lucky Mobile, Bell MTS|
|Telus||Telus Mobility, Koodo Mobile, Public Mobile|
|Shaw||Shaw Mobile, Freedom Mobile|
|Quebecor||Videotron Mobile, Fizz Mobile|
In Canada, most telecom companies offer “bundles” at competitive prices that are designed to save customers some money. These bundles consist of a combination of phone plan, internet connection and/or a TV subscription/package from the same provider.
Sometimes, choosing a different provider for each type of service may turn out to be more economical than opting for a bundle. Be sure to shop around, evaluate all available options, and crunch some numbers to see which package or provider works out to be the better alternative for you.
Average of lowest reported phone plan prices for 2019
|Phone Plan Type||Average monthly cost (CAD)|
|Basic talk (150+ minutes), no text, no data||$20|
|Moderate data use (2 GB), 1200+ minutes talk, 300+ SMS||$40|
|5 GB data with unlimited talk and text||$48|
|Heavy data use (10 GB+) with unlimited talk and text||$65|
Source: Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC)
Note: The costs mentioned above are for “Bring Your Own Device” (BYOD) phone plans (see point #3 below).
Average of lowest reported internet price for 2019
|Internet Plan Type||Average monthly cost (CAD)|
|50/10 Mbps, unlimited GB per month||$69|
|25/3 Mbps, 100 GB per month||$75|
|100/15 Mbps, 500 GB per month||$84|
Source: Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC)
1. Coverage area
The Big Three and their subsidiaries have the most wide-reaching network coverage across Canada.
Urban areas are well-covered by large network providers but if you plan to live in a rural or suburban area, do inquire about network coverage before purchasing a phone plan.
2. Prepaid (pay-as-you-go) vs. Postpaid
Most mobile subscribers in Canada opt for a postpaid plan; plans and pricing are similar across the Big Three.
3. Options to purchase a phone from the telecom provider or Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD)
It is very common in Canada for telecom companies to offer lucrative deals on phones and phone plans (postpaid only). As part of these deals, you pay for the new phone with a fee that’s added to your phone bill each month. With the option to BYOD, customers only purchase the SIM from the provider; the phone is your own. Note that to purchase a new phone from a telecom provider, usually a credit history and credit check is required – this is why most newcomers opt for the BYOD option while getting their first Canadian phone number.
When bringing your own phone to use in Canada, ensure that it is unlocked (not restricted to a single carrier in your home country).
The Big Three are the only ones to offer plans with unlimited data (known to be very expensive). These plans generally provide between 20 to 100 GB of high-speed data each month, and once that limit has been reached, you can still continue to use data, but at a slower speed. LTE data is typically available only with the Big Three. If you’ve signed up with one of their subsidiaries or smaller brands, 4G is likely to be the best option offered.
5. Family phone plans
In Canada, you can purchase phone plans and data that’s shared with multiple family members. These plans are often referred to as “family plans.” With data sharing, everyone in the family can be connected to a shared pool of monthly data usage. If you’re looking for a family plan, be sure to look for deals on talk + text + data.
One of the requirements for purchasing a postpaid phone plan is to provide a credit check. Usually, telecom providers will ask to “check your credit” or “pull your report” when you decide to buy a postpaid plan – this is called a credit check. When they do so, they are asking to access your credit report at the credit bureau.
A credit check by a telecom provider will be considered as a “hard inquiry” or a “hard hit.” Hard inquiries appear in your credit report and can impact your credit score. Anyone who views your credit report in the future will see these inquiries.
As a newcomer in Canada, it takes at least a few weeks to a month for newcomers to receive their first Canadian credit card and a few additional months of credit transactions to generate a credit history. Therefore, while getting your first Canadian phone number, due to the absence of credit history you may have to opt for a prepaid plan – these do not need a credit check.
The smaller telecom providers/brands are likely to have some postpaid plans for newcomers (new plans are introduced all the time). While credit check is still required for these plans, the process is known to be laxed. If you intend to get a postpaid plan, it might be worthwhile to contact individual providers and inquire about the requirements.
|Book an appointment with a financial advisor to learn more about getting your first credit card and read How to build a good credit score from scratch as a newcomer for more insights and tips on building good credit in Canada.|
There is no one size-fits all option for choosing a phone or internet service provider in Canada. Considering that telecom services are expensive here, it is advisable to do your research and look up a few options to find deals that work best for you and your unique needs.