Comparing Rate Plans: Canada vs. the U.S.

August 1, 2018 by

It's no secret that rate plans in the U.S. are a lot better than Canada, in part thanks to their immense competition. After all, there are more people in the just state of California than the entire country of Canada, so it makes sense that they have far more providers. Canadian plans also differ in price across provinces, where most U.S. plans are nation-wide. Their plans also include "unlimited data" that is throttled after 22 GB on average, along with tons of other perks like complimentary music and video streaming—all at a fraction of the price. What happens when we compare plans?

For starters, let's take a look at the U.S. rate plans. Their plans range from a standard plan with unlimited calling and data, to an upgraded plan with the same features, along with some additional perks like mobile hotspots, video streaming, and access to more data before being throttled. In contrast, unlimited data in Canada is relatively unheard of (save for a few exceptions among cheaper provinces like Saskatchewan through Sasktel).

Current U.S. Rate Plans


Virgin Mobile
The Innercircle
$50 Sprint
Unlimited Basic
$60
Boost Mobile
Unlimited Gigs
$50 AT&T
Unlimited&More
$70
Cricket
Unlimited
$50 T-Mobile
ONE
$70
U.S. Cellular
Unlimited
$60 Verizon
gounlimited
$75


U.S. plans average to about $60 which is already a good deal, but these plans are even cheaper with additional lines (devices) that you can add onto your plan. Nearly every plan offers 4 lines at $120.00, which means only $40.00 for unlimited calling and data per device. But we'll use their base prices for now. Since standard U.S. plans are bare-bones and don't include a new phone, we'll also be using the Bring Your Own Device/No Tab options in Canada to compare. Let's take a look at plans from Bell, Rogers and Telus, or the "Big 3" providers currently control the Canadian market.



British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario and Atlantic Province Plans


TELUS, Bell, & Rogers - BYOD
Unlimited Canada Calling
Cost
3 GB $110
4 GB $115
8 GB $130
10 GB $145
12 GB $155
15 GB $185


As you can see, rates for BC, AB, ON and ATL are quite high. They're among the most expensive provinces in the entire country and it doesn't help that we're looking at the Big 3 either. Rogers, Bell and TELUS traditionally have significantly higher rates than the minor rate plan providers like Koodo, Fido, Virgin Mobile and the others, because they offer 24/7 support and have data is shareable between devices. They frequently offer bundles and deals with Internet and TV, not to mention the sheer size of these companies allows them to freely dominate the Canadian wireless industry.

Luckily, there are much cheaper alternatives through minor rate plan providers. These providers offer standalone packages with data that isn't shareable and their support is often self-serve; but cheap is cheap, right? Let's inspect our options:

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Koodo, Fido & Virgin Mobile - BYOD
Unlimited Canada Calling
Cost
2 GB $55
5 GB $65
7 GB $75
10 GB $90


The prices with Koodo, Fido & Virgin Mobile are significantly cheaper than Bell, Rogers or TELUS. The same 10 GB plan costs a whopping $145 with the Big 3 and only $90 with a minor rate plan. That's a difference in price by $50 a month, or $600 a year (which is roughly equivalent to 75 Booster Juices in savings, mind you). All of this in mind, it's still hard to compare with the U.S. plans, which are significantly cheaper and offer far more data.



Chatr & Lucky Mobile
Unlimited Canada Calling
Cost
5.5 GB $45
6.5 GB (with U.S. Calling) $50


Chatr and Lucky Mobile are relatively new minor carriers that have even cheaper plans, but only data at 3 G speeds (enough to browse the internet, but stream music and videos at much slower speeds). Consider their 5.5 GB plans, which include a bonus 500 MB of data, and at $45, is cheaper than Koodo's $65 5 GB plan. But is $20 worth sacrificing 4G LTE speeds for?

Fortunately, there is one rate plan provider that offers plans with 4G LTE data for cheaper, albeit with some strict limitations. Freedom Mobile's Big Gig + Data plans include high-speed data and unlimited nationwide calling with super low prices—but only with coverage in B.C., Alberta and Ontario (Sorry Atlantic!), and with the drawback of a tiny coverage zone that only spans big cities like Vancouver and Toronto. If you leave the boundaries of the Home Network, you lose the perks of your plan and are restricted to a tiny fraction of your features (for exsample, unlimited calling becomes 2400 minutes and your data becomes a mere 500 MB or 1 GB over multiple GB). Freedom also has no hidden fees and offers unlimited 2G data if you ever go past your data limit, much like U.S. providers.




Freedom Mobile (Data + Talk Plans)
Unlimited Canada Calling
Cost
8 GB $50
13 GB $60
18 GB $80
23 GB $100

The 18 GB plan is especially comparable to the unlimited U.S. rate plans which have a threshold of 22 GB before throttling. Along with a sizable chunk of data, this plan from Freedom Mobile offers unlimited Canada-wide calling all for $80— quite close in price to U.S. plans.

The Verdict: Canadian plans are most expensive in British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario and the Atlantic provinces. Freedom Mobile offers the cheapest plans for British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario, but with limited coverage. Chatr and Lucky Mobile offer the cheapest plans after Freedom across Canada, but only at 3G speeds and with a maximum of 6.5 GB data. Koodo, Fido or Virgin Mobile offer the best rate plan options with no strings attached. Stay away from Rogers, TELUS and Bell if you want to save!



Manitoba



TELUS, Bell, & Rogers - BYOD
Unlimited Canada Calling
Cost
2.5 GB $75
6 GB $85
10 GB $95
15 GB $105
20 GB $120
30 GB $135


Rate plan prices in Manitoba are much cheaper than the rest of Canada; their 10 GB plan only costs $95 as opposed to BC's $145. That's $50 cheaper each month! When it comes to their minor providers, unfortunately there's only a tiny range of plans available for the choosing.

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Koodo, Fido & Virgin Mobile - BYOD
Unlimited Canada Calling
Cost
5 GB $48


Koodo, Fido and Virgin Mobile only offer a 5 GB plan for $48, which isn't terrible; but the lack of options is rather painful for the on-the-go Spotify or Twitch lover. Still not exactly comparable to U.S. plans, but we're getting closer.

Chatr and Lucky Mobile still have their same consistent plans in Manitoba, which are a lot worse in comparison to the rest of Canada given the cheaper rates in Manitoba overall. $45 for 5.5 GB at 3G speeds doesn't seem much better than $48 for 5 GB of 4G LTE data.



Chatr & Lucky Mobile
Unlimited Canada Calling
Cost
5.5 GB $45
6.5 GB (with U.S. Calling) $50


What if you want more data, but for cheaper than the Big 3? BellMTS fits this demand; they're a provider unique to Manitoba that offers highly customizable plans. Their BYOD tab starts with $25 base cost, upon which you can add data and calling options. We'll be using pre-created plans that include unlimited Canada-wide calling and different data buckets for comparison (the cost in the table below is the total cost of the plan). 15 GB with unlimited nation-wide calling for $85 is quite close to the average U.S. plan's unlimited (22 GB) plan for $60 USD. You can also choose province-wide instead of nation-wide calling to make things even cheaper (not pictured below). Unfortunately, if you want 20 or 30 GB, you'll have to stick with the Big 3.


BellMTS - BYOD
Unlimited Canada Calling
Cost
2.5 GB $55
6 GB $65
10 GB $75
15 GB $85


The Verdict: Manitoba's plans are much more comparable to U.S. They have cheaper rate plans, but a smaller selection of data to chose from. Koodo and Fido only have a 5 GB plan for $48, while Virgin Mobile also has an 8 GB plan for $60. Like the Big 3, BellMTS offers bigger data plans, but for much cheaper and with the benefit of being able to customize based on your needs.


Saskatchewan


TELUS, Bell, & Rogers - BYOD
Unlimited Canada Calling
Total Cost
2.5 GB $75
6 GB $85
10 GB $95
15 GB $105
20 GB $120
30 GB $135

Saskatchewan's plans and pricing are incredibly similar to Manitoba, save for a few small differences. The Big 3 still feature the same pricing, and Koodo, Fido and Virgin Mobile.


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Koodo, Fido & Virgin Mobile - BYOD
Unlimited Canada Calling
Cost
5 GB $48


Chatr and Lucky Mobile are also present with their same rates, which pail in comparison to the 4G plans that are similarly priced.



Chatr & Lucky Mobile
Unlimited Canada Calling
Cost
5.5 GB $45
6.5 GB (with U.S. Calling) $50


Perhaps the most interesting thing about Saskatchewan's wireless market is their exclusive provider, Sasktel, which offers the only "unlimited" data options in the entirety of Canada. Wow! ... Except they're throttled after 15 GB, so really these are just 15 GB plans with fancy naming. Sasktel has a wide range of plans that are customizable, so you'd likely find one that fits your needs. Their pricing on the shareMORE plans isn't the greatest when compared to other providers in the province, but at least there are a variety of options.



Sasktel - shareMORE Nationwide
Unlimited Canada Calling
Cost
1 GB $65
5 GB $70
10 GB $80
15 GB $90
20 GB $110
35 GB $160
50 GB $210


Sasktel - Unlimited Plans
Unlimited Canada Calling
Cost
VIP 85
Unlimited Data
(Reduced after 15 GB)
[Only available for maxTV/Sasktel Internet Users]
$85
TOTAL 125
Unlimited Data
(Reduced after 15 GB)
$125


The VIP 85 plan is only available to select maxTV and/or Sasktel Internet users, otherwise you're restricted to the TOTAL 125 plan. Both are throttled after 15 GB, so again these are just 15 GB plans. And when you compare the $125 price tag to their regular 15 GB plan that costs $90, you'd essentially be paying an extra $35 for unlimited slow-speed data after your 15 gigs are up. This being said, like Manitoba, plans in Saskatchewan are somewhat closer to U.S. plans in terms of pricing. 15 GB isn't too far off from 22 GB, and the pricing is closer to $60 USD.



The Verdict: Plans in Saskatchewan are very close to the ones in Manitoba. Like BellMTS, they have their own rate plan provider in Sasktel with "unlimited" data options that are more comparable to 15 GB. The best rates are found through Koodo, Fido and Virgin Mobile in terms of pricing, but if you want bigger data, you're best bet is Sasktel.



Quebec


Rate plans in Quebec are priced closer to Manitoba and Saskatchewan. One thing to note is that there's varience between the Big 3; they offer a majority of matching plans, but also some that are exclusive to each other. It's also interesting to note that there are some price variations on identical plans (that will likely be fixed soon), like Roger's 4 GB plan, which costs $60, while Bell's 4 GB plan is only $50.



Bell - BYOD
Unlimited Canada Calling
Total Cost
4 GB $50
6 GB $55
7 GB $62
12 GB $85
16 GB $95


Rogers - BYOD
Unlimited Canada Calling
Total Cost
4 GB $60
7 GB $62
12 GB $85
16 GB $95


TELUS - BYOD
Unlimited Canada Calling
Total Cost
7 GB $62
10 GB $73
12 GB $85
16 GB $95


Like Manitoba and Saskatchewan, Koodo and Fido only offer a 5 GB plan for $48.


Koodo & Fido - BYOD
Unlimited Canada Calling
Cost
5 GB $48


Virgin Mobile also has its additional 10 GB plan, for $17 more, or $3.4 per GB. This plan is likely the closest in terms of value and data when compared to the U.S., considering they pay $60 USD for unlimited data (throttled after 22 GB). It's still only half of the data, but in the sea of expensive Canadian plans this is one of the best you'll get.


Virgin Mobile - BYOD
Unlimited Canada Calling
Cost
5 GB $48
10 GB $65


Chatr and Lucky Mobile also have the same plans with data at 3G speeds, but they don't really standout since Quebec's other plans are quite close in comparison (and with 4G LTE data to boot).



Chatr & Lucky Mobile
Unlimited Canada Calling
Cost
5.5 GB $45
6.5 GB (with U.S. Calling) $50

Quebec also has their own unique rate plan provider, much alike Manitoba and Saskatchewan. Vidéotron has a range of plans that are on the pricier side, but many of their plans include U.S. calling, and can also be bundled with their Internet and TV. They also end in .95s which will make your head spin a little bit everytime you read your phone bill.


Vidéotron
Unlimited Canada Calling
Cost
6 GB (with U.S. Calling) $67.95
7 GB (with U.S. Calling) $77.95
8 GB (with U.S. Calling) $87.95
9 GB $97.95
10 GB $107.95




The Verdict: Quebec is very close to Manitoba and Saskatchewan in terms of pricing and plan options. Their Big 3 has some variance in the different plans, but it's still cheaper to go with a minor provider. Koodo and Fido only offer 5 GB for $48, while Virgin Mobile has a 10 GB option for $65. Chatr and Lucky Mobile aren't really worth looking at. Vidéotron has some options that include U.S. calling, and there are ways to bundle your plan with TV and Internet.


The Bottom Line

Canadian plans are evidently quite weak in comparison to the U.S. There isn't enough competition to drive the prices down, especially in provinces like British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario and the Atlantic. Meanwhile, in Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Quebec, prices are more tame in part thanks to providers like Sasktel and BellMTS. Above all, it seems that our plans in the $60 range can only accomodate up to ~10 GB of data, while the standard U.S. plans include up to 22 GB or even more, depending on what the providers will allow before throttling the data.

If we want cheaper, we have to deal with the drawbacks. Freedom has a limited coverage range, while Chatr and Lucky Mobile only provide up 3G speeds. Koodo, Fido and Virgin Mobile have less quality of service and flexibility as Bell, Rogers and Telus, but are still the cheapest option for British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario and the Atlantic without any significant downsides. Sasktel and BellMTS are worth looking at in Saskatchewan and Manitoba, depending on your needs. Quebec also has options, through Koodo, Fido and Virgin Mobile, in addition to Vidéotron, which has plans with bundles and U.S. calling. At the end of the day, Canadians still have little wiggle room when it comes to the wireless industry.

Posted in: Industry News, US Industry News


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