Cell phone plan in Canada guide, now updated for 2021.
You’ve made your plans to come to Canada, booked your flight, and now you’ve just stepped off the plane and taken your first steps on Canadian soil. What’s the first thing you do? Call your mom to let her know you arrived safely? Look up directions to your hotel or your new apartment? Post a story to Instagram to make your friends jealous?
Well, for any of the above, you’re going to need a cell phone! (Not sure what a cell phone is? In your country, you might call it a mobile phone, but it means the same thing.)
In this article, we explain a few of the basic concepts that are important to understand before shopping for a Canadian mobile phone plan. Looking for an answer to a specific question? Feel free to jump to whatever section is relevant to you:
If you already know the basics and you want to deep dive into some of the bigger questions, we have separate articles with much more detail comparing the major cell phone providers in Canada and discussing whether its better to get a prepaid plan or sign up for a monthly contract.
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How much will you pay for a cell phone plan in Canada?
Let’s get one thing out of the way: Canada is notorious for having some of the most expensive cell phone plans in the world, especially when it comes to data. If you want the latest iPhone and enough data to download an entire Netflix series on your daily walk, then brace yourself. We’ll do our best to lay out the most competitive options, but there’s a good chance you’ll end up paying more than wherever you’re coming from.
The cost of Canadian phone plans varies greatly depending on the type of services you’re receiving. If you want a simple phone plan that only allows you to make calls and text, then you can find some cheap options.
It’s the age of the internet, most cell phone users these days want at least some data with their phone plan. As it turns out, data has a huge impact on the price of your phone plan in Canada. According to a recent government report analyzing telecommunications pricing in Canada in 2019, the cost for a phone plan with 5GB of data ranges from $57 to $101 per month. These days, many people want more than 5GB of data. If you’re a data fiend, brace yourself for the cost of your plan.
Just to compare to other countries, here is a comparison between the cost of a phone plan purchased in Canada versus a few other countries. This comparison is taken from the same report:
Cost of a typical cell phone plan with 2 GB of data in 2019 (CAD)
|Average Monthly Price||$74.42||$59.50||$22.35||$24.72||$33.09||$41.08||$26.80|
Canadian plans are easily the priciest on the market, costing two or three times the amount of most European plans. Consider yourself warned! Although, there is reason to be optimistic, as in March 2020, the government mandated that Canada’s major cell phone providers slash their plan prices by 25 percent within the next two years.
The impacts of the government mandate to reduce data pricing appears to be working. In April 2021, we checked phone plans available through three of Canada’s popular phone providers: Fido, Koodo, and Virgin. All three were offering plans beginning at $45/month with 6GB of data. Bear in mind, plan pricing changes frequently, and often varies based on a customer’s location and phone, so you may not see these plans reflected directly — but, data pricing is going down!
Now, you might be thinking, “It might be expensive, but it seems simple enough. I just have to pick the plan that’s best for me and go!” Unfortunately, it’s a bit more complicated than that. There are a few questions you have to be prepared for, because your answer will impact which phone provider is best for you.