Wireless Carrier Buying Guide

Selecting a wireless carrier that fits your needs and budget can be a daunting task. This wireless carrier buying guide outlines the current market to help you make an informed decision.

Wireless Carriers 101

Cell phones have become so ingrained in our lives it's hard to imagine going without one. While we often focus on the phones we like, the wireless carrier we choose and the service plan we select are a big part of the experience. In Canada, three large carriers, Rogers, Bell and Telus, dominate the market. Each operates a premium service as well as one or more discount services. In addition, a host of smaller service providers operate independently throughout the country. There's no escaping the need to buckle down and do your research before buying. The good news is that with so much choice, you're sure to find a phone plan that suits your lifestyle.

Canadian Wireless Carriers

Rogers%20Wireless

Rogers Wireless

Rogers Wireless is Canada's largest wireless carrier. Owned by Rogers Communications, it offers wireless service with national coverage on three different networks. The company's GSM and HSPA networks operate coast to coast, while its faster LTE network operates in major population centres. Rogers Wireless offers a broad range of postpaid and, to a lesser extent, prepaid plans to fit different budgets. Rogers’ smartphone offerings include the latest models of Apple iPhone, Blackberry, LG Optimus, Samsung Galaxy, HTC One and Nokia Lumina. They also offer feature phones by LG and Nokia.
Fido

Fido

Also owned by Rogers Communications, Fido offers national coverage with a focus on lower-priced phone plans. Although separate from Rogers Wireless, Fido uses the same GSM, HSPA and LTE networks. Fido offers a broad range of postpaid and prepaid plans, but with an emphasis on cost to compete head on with the discount plans offered by other wireless carriers. The CityFido plan, for example, includes either multiple or unlimited local calling minutes in certain zones throughout Canada. Like Rogers Wireless, Fido offers the latest models of Apple iPhone, Blackberry, LG Optimus, Samsung Galaxy, HTC One and Nokia Lumina — plus feature phones from LG and Nokia.
Chatr

Chatr

Chatr is Rogers’ most budget-conscious carrier. It uses the same networks as Roger’s other carriers, but minimizes costs by providing coverage only in designated “Chatr” zones. When Chatr customers use their phones outside their designated areas, additional charges apply on a pay-per-use basis. Chatr mostly offers feature phones from LG and Nokia, with a few smartphone selections from these same companies.  
Bell%20Mobility

Bell Mobility

Bell Mobility is a national wireless carrier owned by BCE, which provides service on three different wireless networks: CDMA, HSPA and LTE. The newer, faster LTE network is available primarily in major population centres. Bell Mobility offers a broad range of postpaid and, to a lesser extent, budget prepaid plans to fit every need. Its lineup of smartphones includes the latest models of Apple iPhone, Blackberry, LG Optimus, Samsung Galaxy and HTC One. They also carry feature phones from Samsung.
Virgin%20Mobile

Virgin Mobile

Virgin Mobile is a national wireless carrier and a sister company of Bell Mobility. Both carriers are owned by BCE and operate on the same CDMA, HSPA and LTE networks. Virgin offers a broad range of postpaid and prepaid plans, but it emphasizes lower-cost plans to compete with the discount plans offered by other wireless carriers. Virgin's lineup of smartphones includes the latest models of Apple iPhone, Blackberry, LG Optimus, Samsung Galaxy and HTC One. Feature phones from LG are also available. 
Telus%20Mobility

Telus Mobility

Telus Mobility is a national wireless carrier owned by Telus Communications, which provides service on four different wireless networks. CDMA, HSPA and LTE are its mainstream networks, with LTE available only in larger population centres. iDEN is a commercial network featuring phone and push-to-talk services. Telus offers a broad range of postpaid and, to a lesser extent, prepaid plans to fit every need. Phone selections include the latest models of Apple iPhone, Blackberry, LG Optimus, Samsung Galaxy, LG G2, HTC One and Nokia Lumina. They also carry feature phones from LG.
Kodoo%20Mobile

Kodoo Mobile

Kodoo Mobile is a national wireless carrier and a sister company of Telus Mobility. Koodo differs though, in that it does not require customers to sign a fixed term contract. Koodo also employs the concept of a Tab which allows users to accumulate credit towards a new phone. Kodoo operates on Telus' CDMA, HSPA and LTE networks. The company offers a broad range of postpaid and prepaid plans, but it emphasizes lower-cost plans to compete with the discount plans offered by other wireless carriers. Their smartphone lineup includes the latest models of the Apple iPhone, Blackberry, Nokia Lumina and Samsung Galaxy. They also carry feature phones by LG.

Usage Tips:

  • Be sure you plan fits your coverage needs
  • Analyze your previous bills to determine your average monthly usage and adjust your plan accordingly
  • Don't buy extras that you don't need
  • Families can save money by choosing family plans
  • Use Wi-Fi whenever possible to save on data usage. Going over your rate will cost extra
  • Be aware that roaming fees can apply outside your service plan's coverage area

Wireless Carrier Features

GSM +

GSM stands for Global System for Mobile Communications. It’s an older wireless standard that accounts for more than 80% of the wireless market around the world. In Canada, Rogers Wireless operates a network based on the GSM standard.

CDMA +

CDMA stands for Code Division Multiple Access. Like GSM, it is an older wireless standard. Although GSM has more market share internationally, CDMA is the dominant standard in the United States. In Canada, Bell Mobility and Telus Mobility both operate CDMA networks.

HSPA +

HSPA stands for Evolved High-Speed Packet Access. It allows for the faster data speeds required for wireless Internet transmission. HSPA also provides improved battery life and faster wake-from-idle time. Rogers Wireless, Bell Mobility and Telus Mobility all operate HSPA networks.

LTE +

LTE, which stands for Long Term Evolution, is an even faster standard for wireless communications. Rogers and Bell introduced LTE networks in 2011, while Telus rolled out its LTE network in 2012 through a partnership with Bell.

Postpaid +

A postpaid wireless phone plan is a plan that must be paid up in full at the end of each month. The user is billed a flat rate up to a specified limit of phone minutes, text message and data usage. If the user exceeds the limit, additional charges apply. Most postpaid wireless plans require the user to enter a long-term contract (two to three years in duration) with the wireless provider, but some plans offer monthly contracts.

Prepaid +

A prepaid wireless phone plan is a plan paid for in advance. The billing period can vary, but often it is a month in duration. The user can talk, text and surf the Web until the prepaid credit is used up. Afterwards, the service will stop working until additional credit is purchased.

Talk, Text and Data +

With a talk, text and data plan, you can do it all. Talk to your friends, stay in touch by text or surf the Web.

Talk and Text +

If you're only going to talk on the phone and send text messages, there's no use paying extra for data. That's where basic talk-and-text plans come in. Choose one that suits your needs.

Video Chat +

Video chat is an application for your smartphone that allows you to see the other person you're talking to. Video chat doesn't use up your phone minutes because it works over the Internet. There are several video chat apps available, including FaceTime (for the iPhone exclusively), Skype and Google Hangouts.

Unlocked Phones

Most phones purchased from a wireless carrier are "locked" to the carrier's network. Carriers lock their phones to deter you from moving with them to a competing carrier. The advantage is you save money because the phone costs substantially less and/or is subsidized over the duration of your wireless service contract. However, if you prefer an unlocked phone, you can simply contact your provider and they will do it for you. An unlocking fee of about $50 will be charged to your account. If you have purchased a subsidized phone on a prepaid contract, you may need to wait 90 days into your term. If you own your phone outright, your wireless carrier will unlock it immediately for the locking fee. 
Legal
This article is intended as general information. Always be sure to read and follow the label(s)/instruction(s) that accompany your product(s). Walmart will not be responsible for any injury or damage caused by this activity.

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