Getting Started in Canada: Cell Phones and

Getting Started in Canada: Cell Phones and Internet Service
Cell Phones: Contract vs. No Contract
In Canada, three major cell phone companies – Bell, Rogers, and Telus – cover about 90% of the Canadian cell phone
market, which is why cell phones in Canada can be expensive. Other smaller providers include Fido, Koodo, Mobilicity,
Virgin Mobile, and Wind Mobile. The main difference is that smaller providers usually don’t enforce contracts.
No Contract
• Reduced price on the phone
• More plan options
• Options for family package at reduced cost
Switch providers or stop using at any time
Buy a phone with no obligations or costs
Prepaid – control how much you want to spend,
no surprises
• Expensive penalty when cancelling contract
• Significant financial commitment
• May not be able to change your phone
Cost per minute more expensive
Pay upfront for phone
Fewer plans
Sometimes prepaid – minutes expire, need to
‘Local’ vs. ‘Long Distance’
A phone number with the same area code as your own (604 or 778 for Vancouver) does not necessarily mean it is
considered within your ‘local’ calling zone. It may depend on where you are using the phone. Make sure you ask your
provider what is considered ‘local’ and your ‘local’ calling zone to avoid high bills!
Price Overview
If you plan on making many international calls, consider using the internet or calling cards. Shop around and
ask others from your country about long distance calling rates because they vary. In general, calling cards are:
 Often cheaper than making international calls directly from your cell phone
 Flexible - use on regular phones, payphones or your cell phone; at home or out of province
You can buy them both on and off campus at post offices, drug stores, convenience stores, grocery stores, as
well as online.
International House • 1783 West Mall • Phone: 604.822.5021 • Updated Aug. 22, 2013 • Page 1 of 5
Plan Options and Prices
On average, people pay $35 to over $80 per month for a cell phone plan. The more features you have (such as voice,
text, and mobile data), the more expensive it will cost. There are some common service packs offered, like unlimited
calling after 7pm or on weekends – ask your provider.
Many UBC students use text messages to communicate. Wireless internet is widely available across UBC campus – so if
you have a smart phone, you will be able to access the internet on campus without getting a separate mobile data plan.
Want to Keep your Phone from Home?
If you already have a phone that uses a SIM card, and want to continue using it with a Canadian number rather than
buying a new phone, ask the provider if it is possible. Most Canadian telecom companies have their own networks – so in
most cases, you’ll need a phone from that provider. However, some prepaid calling providers allow it – such as the Speak
Out cellular phone available at 7-Eleven convenience stores. You can find more information at 7-Eleven stores or online
How to Get a Cell Phone
1. Look into different options, know exactly what you want (use the checklist attached to this handout)
2. Go to a nearby cell phone outlet or set-up online
3. You’ll usually need ID (e.g. passport) and proof of address (e.g. rental agreement, bills or government letters)
Where to Get a Cell Phone:
1) On-Campus
Or at promotion
booths near the
Student Union
Building (SUB)
during the first
week of classes in
International House • 1783 West Mall • Phone: 604.822.5021 • Updated Aug. 22, 2013 • Page 2 of 5
2) Off-Campus
A: West 4 Ave
and Yew St.
(Koodo, Wind,
Virgin Mobile)
B: W Broadway
and MacDonald St.
(Bell, Fido,
Mobilicity, Rogers,
3) Online
Where to Get a Calling Card on Campus
Student Union Building (SUB) –
post office & convenience store
Shoppers Drug Mart
Post office in the SUB
Drug Stores (e.g., Shoppers Drug Mart, London Drugs)
Convenience Stores
Grocery Stores
Internet Services
In residence: When you live in residence, you can access the internet using ResNet. For more information visit
You can set up internet service with UBC Information Technology (604.822.2441), Shaw Cable or Telus
International House • 1783 West Mall • Phone: 604.822.5021 • Updated Aug. 22, 2013 • Page 3 of 5
What Phone and Plan Will Suit your Needs?
I will talk on my cell phone (including both outgoing and incoming calls):
 Frequently/Daily (~575 minutes/month)
 Moderately/a few times a week (~350 minutes/month)
 Occasionally/short calls (~35-50 minutes/month)
I will be making mostly:
 Local calls (*be sure to ask your provider what is considered their ‘local calling zone’)
 Long-distance calls
 International calls
I prefer to make international calls:
 On the internet
 On my phone
What days and times will I use the cell phone mostly?
 Weekdays during the day (Mon-Fri 7am-7pm?)
 Evenings and overnight (Mon-Fri 7pm-7am)?
 Weekends (Friday 7pm - Mon 7am)?
I will use the cellphone mostly for:
 Voice calls
 Texting
 internet
Do I want internet access from my cell phone?
 Yes
 No
What extra features do I want? (e.g., caller ID, voicemail, call forwarding, etc.)
Do I want a contract or no contract?
 Yes
 No
If you answered ‘Yes’ above, how many years do you want the contract for? ___________________
I can spend $_________ per month on my total phone bill
When your first bill arrives, be sure to check:
 Am I using the minutes in your plan as expected?
 Are long distance or roaming charges becoming high?
 Am I using texts and data more than expected?
 Am I in the right plan?
 Would I be better off with a different plan or provider?
This page adapted from Industry Canada’s ‘Cellphone Choices for Canadians – A Checklist.’
For a complete guide, go to
International House • 1783 West Mall • Phone: 604.822.5021 • Updated Aug. 22, 2013 • Page 4 of 5
Things to Ask at the Phone Shop
1. Contract/No Contract & Cancellation options
 Is this a contract? or a no contract?
 Is it possible to cancel? What are the policies on cancelling?
 Are there cancellation fees? If so, how much?
2. Is there a trial period? If yes, for how long?
3. Billing “Bottom Line”
 What is the actual final price you’ll pay?
 Is billing pro-rated? (*If so, note that your first bill will be higher than usual)
 Am I billed monthly? How do I pay my bill?
4. Hidden fees
 Are there ‘additional service’ charges?
 Is there a ‘system access fee’?
 Are there over-usage fees (for both voice and data)?
5. Minutes
 What are the in-plan minutes?
 Are there unlimited minutes from a certain time? If so, what are the start and end time?
 Does the ‘unlimited minutes’ include both local and long-distance calls?
 What is considered ‘local’ and ‘long distance’ by the cell phone company?
 What are the policies and fees on outgoing and incoming international calls?
 Are there roaming charges?
6. Data & Messaging services
 Can I send picture messages?
 What are the policies and fees on outgoing and incoming international texts?
 What are the data limits?
7. Other options
 Are there upgrade options?
 Are there family discount options?
 Are there any promotions going on currently? What’s the “catch”?
8. Cell phone handset
 Battery Life – How many hours between recharging and how long will the battery last before it needs to be
 Durability – Will the phone handle daily wear and tear?
 Keypad – Is it easy to see and use?
 Hands Free Capability?
 Screen – Is the display easy to read indoors and outside?
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