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Mobile phone service, or cellular, or cell phone service in Canada is the same as the U.S.A., but different from that in the rest of the world.
If using your phone from home, roaming charges can be expensive. Check with you service provider if they offer any roaming packages.
Most Jurisdictions in Canada have adopted laws that prohibit use of a cell phone while operating a motor vehicle. This includes texting and surfing the web (including TA!) while driving.
There are 2 basic systems, CDMA and GSM (including AWS, UMTS, HSPA, LTE). GSM is used in most of the world but the North American system uses different frequencies.
AWS / UMTS / HSDPA are regarding as 3G. LTE is 4G.
Canadian networks stopped supporting CDMA phones in May 2016. United States carriers who continue using CDMA after that date include Sprint and Verizon. United States carriers which use GSM include AT&T and T Mobile.
Please check with your own service provider at home regarding compatability and rates.
All networks in Canada cuurently support one or more of GSM / AWS / UMTS / HSDPA / LTE . North American GSM uses 850/1900 MHz , UMTS/HSDPA 850/1900Mhz, LTE 1700/2600, AWS 1700/2100 frequencies. Makre sure your own phone is compatible with these frequencies.
You must have a tri-band or quad-band GSM phone, or 3G phone supporting 1900Mhz to be compatible. AWS phones (other than the Google Nexus) are not usually sold outside North America. LTE from outside North America are not compatible but these phones usually have GSM/3G frequencies that are still compatible.
If your phone is compatible, it must be UNLOCKED in order to use a local SIM card. Phones are usually locked so you can only use them with a SIM from the service provider or carrier who supplied the phone. Phones can be unlocked to accept SIMs from other carriers.
A pay-as-you-go SIM card is $10 from most major networks. If you have an iPhone, you can obtain a SIM card from Apple Store in Canada with special pricing.
Local calls are ~$0.30/min and Canada long distance ~$0.40/min
To find the best plan from all Canadian service providers:
For coverage maps see the following page for all Canadian service providers:
For a map of Cell Towers and ownership, see the following map:
The major national providers are
The following providers run on Rogers network and provide cheaper local and long distance rates. However they do not provide international roaming and you cannot use them outside of Canada.
A provider with plans for visitors to Canada, for 7 days and up. They run on the Bell/Telus network.
Cheap or Pay as You Go phones are available from various mobile phone stores, with service provided by all major network. Many people like the phones and plans from 7-11 (Speakout) or from Petro-Canada. 7-11 sells inexpensive phones and sim cards. I have also been using a sim card and cell phone I got from IRoam.com. This works is the USA and Canada and does not charge long distance unlike most others. Rates are good for 6 months and you can use the sim all over the world. InCanada it works on Bell and Telus networks so coverage has been great. They also sell data plans
All major providers Telus, Bell, Rogers, Fido offer tablet/MiFi data plans, in the neighbourhood of ~$25 for 1GB and ~$40 for 5 GB. Please google "XXXXX tablet plan" and substitute XXXXX with the provider name (as plan details and web pages change all the time). Also note that IMEI filtering may be in place with some providers, which means you must use a tablet or MiFi router for these plans. Please check with the provider.