Mobile Telephones

Find out how to get yourself connected with a mobile phone in Canada, and how mobile data works for cellphones in Canada...

In Canada, mobile phones are referred to as "cell phones" or "mobile phones". While several standards are in use, Canadian mobile phone companies typically operate using either GSM or CDMA technology. Because of this, handsets will only work with certain providers: SaskTel, for example, uses CDMA technology, and will not accept GSM cellphones. Newer standards for use with modern smartphones are being deployed, but compatibility of a handset with a network should always be checked. It is possible that mobile phones from abroad will be incompatible with Canadian networks.

There are a number of mobile telephone providers operating Canada, most of which do not operate nationwide. Different providers offer a range of packages with different tariffs and conditions. Most "pay monthly" contracts will involve separate caps for voice minutes, text messages and wireless data. Many companies also offer packages that include long-distance minutes, packages that include travel coverage, and mobile data only deals for tablet users. Three-year contracts are commonplace. The main cell phone providers are:

Packages

There is a lot of variation in the types of cell phone package available, with some deals offering evening or daytime packages in which calls for a particular time of day are discounted or included in the monthly fee. Additional extras to the monthly rate include tax, the 911 emergency service and a system access fee.

Pre-paid services are also available, but require a pre-paid monthly top up rather than a pay-as-you-go arrangement. Top ups normally expire after 30, or sometimes 60, days even if they are not used, so it is necessary to buy a new card and top up regularly regardless. In general, a higher top-up allows a longer expiry time. The call rates for pre-paid phones are usually a lot higher than contract rates.

Pre-paid services do not require any contracts or credit checks. This service does not usually include a system access fee; however, a service charge for the 911 service is deducted in most parts of Canada. Cell phone providers often check credit ratings before agreeing to a contract. Having a credit card may be sufficient without a credit history in Canada, but is at the discretion of the provider.

  • For more information about choosing a cell phone provider from the Government of Canada's website: Click here

Lost/Stolen Mobile/Cell Phones

A cell phone provider's customer services team should be contacted regarding a lost or stolen cell phone. Some providers are able to block the account using the phone's serial number. Ask the relevant service provider how to access the phone's serial number.

3G and 4G Mobile Data

Canada has good 3G and 4G provision in urban and residential areas, but reception in areas of the country with a lower population is limited. It is advisable to check service coverage with a range of mobile providers before taking out a mobile data contract. 4G in Canada may not be significantly faster than 3G, as the definitions are interchangeable to a certain degree. Most providers offer detailed coverage maps on their websites.