Finding a cheap cellphone plan that fits both your technological and financial needs can be one daunting task – that’s why we at Global News do it for you.
Every year one lucky online reporter searches far and country-wide for the best and cheapest cellphone plans out there, all in an effort to make sure you – the consumer – are getting the most bang for your buck.
And for the second year in a row, that reporter is me.
But before I reveal the findings of my research – which included me calling the “Big 3” and five discount carriers – it’s important to take a look at the government’s yearly report on telecommunications services in Canada, as it reveals quite a bit about where Canada is in mobile pricing and how it stacks up compared to other countries.
Up until this year, the report was prepared for the CRTC by NGL Nordicity Group Ltd. This year, however, the responsibility has fallen to the government body of Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED), but is still in collaboration with Nordicity. The report is called the “2017 Price Comparison Study of Telecommunications Services in Canada and Select Foreign Jurisdictions.”
Much like last year, the report divided cellphone plan use into several categories, also known as “service baskets.” For the sake of comparison, we stuck with Service Basket Level 2 as it was identified as the most widely used plan Canadians reportedly look for.
The service basket includes 450 minutes of calling and 300 text messages.
But because it lacked the need for data, we also looked at Service Basket Level 3 as it includes 1,200 minutes of calling, 300 text messages and 1 GB of data.
According to the report, prices for service basket Level 2 decreased by 16 per cent, while prices for Level 3 dropped about five per cent on average across the country.
Compared to other countries, Canada’s Level 2 packages rest right in the middle with an average monthly cost of $40.95. The cheapest — on average — is $22.58 in the U.K. and the most expensive is an average of $49.48 in the U.S.
For Level 3 packages, however, Canada remains the most expensive with an average bill of $70.70. Germany comes in second at $64.03, on average. The least expensive is Italy with an average bill of $20.51.
Broken down by Canadian cities, Toronto, Vancouver and Halifax were the most expensive for both levels, while Regina was the lowest for Level 2 and Winnipeg for Level 3.
According to a report in PC Magazine, Telus is this year’s winner as the fastest mobile network provider.
We reached out to both Bell and Rogers to see what they had to say about the magazine’s findings.
“Based on speed, coverage and quality, Bell LTE is Canada’s Best National Network, and it beats mobile networks in most major cities worldwide as you have probably seen in our advertising,” Bell spokesperson Vanessa Damha said in an emailed statement. “We also win the overall speed crown most years and in more Canadian cities, and that’s a result of constant innovation and investment.”
Samantha Grant, a Roger’s spokesperson, also provided an emailed statement: “Our focus is on keeping our customers connected to what matters to them every day with a consistent, reliable network. We are also investing in a robust 4.5G network, which will be the strong foundation for 5G.”
In an effort to see if the ISED report’s findings stand up in real life, I called up Canada’s three biggest carriers and five discount carriers to see the best and cheapest plans they could offer me based on a customer’s cellphone usage.
Like in 2016, my experience with each provider was good overall, with the exception of Freedom. While I was left on hold for about three minutes before actually talking to a person, it felt as if the representative wanted to get me off the phone as quickly as possible. They didn’t ask me at the end of the call if I wanted to actually go with the plans they offered me – they just quickly let me go.
Across the board, most calls lasted under 10 minutes. During the time I spoke to representatives, I stuck to our regular script:
“I’m looking to buy a new phone and plan for either an iPhone 8 or Samsung Galaxy S8. I use about 450 minutes a month, send about 300 text messages and need enough data to check my email and social media throughout the day. I have family in the U.S. so I also make a couple of long-distance calls a month. What’s the best, cheapest plan you can offer?”
Most of the conversations were straightforward and easy to understand. Most calls lasted between three minutes and 14 minutes – the longest being Rogers, followed by Virgin Mobile at nine minutes (who put me on hold for about half of the call). The fastest call was with Freedom Mobile, however, it felt like I was being rushed off the phone toward the end.
So before you sign your life away under another two-year contract, check out below to see what we found in our research. Not only can this information give you a better sense of the company you may be signing with and what they offer, but it arms you with the knowledge you need to negotiate your next cellphone deal.
Graphics by Deepak Sharma and Caroline Stephenson
© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.