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Mobile phone services in Toronto for newcomers

You've just arrived in Toronto and are looking for a mobile phone plan that suits your needs? Be aware that the Canadian market has its own peculiarities. Here's a comprehensive guide to help you choose the right operator and find the best plan at the right price.

An Oligopoly of 3 Operators Dominates the Market

The Canadian telecommunications landscape is dominated by three major national operators who share the majority of the market:

  • Bell: Number 1 in Canada

  • Rogers: Very prominent in Ontario

  • Telus: Predominantly in western Canada but also well-established in Ontario These historical operators own most of the country's network infrastructure. They offer plans under their own brands and also through affiliated brands (e.g., Fido for Rogers, Koodo for Telus, Virgin for Bell).

Only Freedom Mobile has its own network, but it's limited to certain urban centers, and its 5G network is still restricted.

The three major operators don't truly compete with each other and tend to have relatively high pricing. Fortunately, new virtual operators have emerged to inject dynamism into the market.

The Welcome Arrival of Virtual Mobile Operators

In recent years, new players have provided an alternative to the traditional major operators:

  • Subsidiaries: Fido, Virgin Mobile, Koodo. They are owned by the major operators but focus on offering low-cost plans.

  • Virtual operators: like Public Mobile, Chatr, or Lucky Mobile. They purchase wholesale services from the major operators to resell their own plans.

  • Internet service providers: TekSavvy, Ebox. They have also entered the mobile market.

These newcomers encourage competition and offer more attractive plans. However, they rely on the networks of the three major operators for coverage quality. This coverage is quite similar among the three operators and remains of very good quality in Ontario, at least in the south.

Limited Data Plans

Unlike USA, Asia or European where plans have unlimited calls/SMS/MMS and several hundred gigabytes of data, Canadian plans generally include limited internet data, ranging from 1 to 15 GB per month. Plans with 10 GB or more often come at a higher cost. Data speeds are reduced (to 128 or 256 kbps) after exceeding the data limit. Using data while roaming abroad is also expensive. Remember to disable data roaming before traveling to avoid any unpleasant surprises.

Buying Your Phone or Taking a Subsidized Plan?

Most mobile plans are now contract-free. You can keep your current phone and get just a SIM card (SIM-only plan). Nevertheless, some operators still offer subsidized plans, where the cost of the phone is integrated into the monthly plan. While these plans come at a higher cost, you get a new phone and pay for it over 24 months. It's up to you to do the math and decide what's more advantageous between:

  • Keeping your current phone and getting a contract-free plan

  • Getting a new phone with a subsidized plan over 24 months

How to Find the Best Mobile Offer?

To find the best plan that suits your needs, here are some tips:

  • Estimate your monthly usage: calls, SMS, mobile internet.

  • Compare plans on online comparison platforms like PlanHub.

  • Opt for flexible and contract-free plans.

  • Target new operators for the best prices.

  • Analyze the network coverage of the operator in your area.

  • Check user reviews on forums.

With a bit of methodology, you'll be able to discover the best mobile offer that fits your budget! The Canadian market is complex and relatively expensive, but good deals are out there.


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