Shopping Discussion

A comprehensive guide for the cheapest cellphone plan

  • Last Updated:
  • Jul 26th, 2015 10:57 pm
[OP]
Newbie
Sep 1, 2011
76 posts
92 upvotes

A comprehensive guide for the cheapest cellphone plan

UPDATE: Added Speakout 7/11's Prepaid service for bare minimum users. Thank you Omineca and Bylo.


Hi guys,

It seems that there's a lot of confusion and different opinions/methods on how to get a really cheap cellphone plan in Canada. I'm an ex-telecom worker, and also having done a fair amount of research, I've compiled a comprehensive guide on how to achieve the cheapest possible cellphone plan. As an example, my family and I of 4 share 10GB of data with an all in price of $95 plus taxes a month. We could cut that down to even 5GB for $75 a month if we wanted to, but I like having the extra data ;)

Anyways, here are the key points of my findings:
  • Using pure data communication is the cheapest. It's the future and telecoms are just milking those who aren't using it yet.
  • Having one main plan with satellites (tablet share plans) that branch off makes it even cheaper for those that share their cellphone bill.
  • Don't ever be on contract or be paying off your device "tab", it is significantly more expensive. Explanations below.
  • If you still need an actual phone number, get an online one or a VoIP account (I suggest Fongo, text+, Google Hangouts Dialer, or Skype, all of which are free or cost pennies a month), otherwise be prepared to pay twice as much on your phone bill for the traditional phone number/communication.
  • Manitoba and Saskatchewan plans are the cheapest. Get your plan/phone number from there (don't worry, you don't actually need to be living there, and pure data communication allows you to have multiple phone numbers anyways).
Last updated February 5, 2015. This is all just data I've taken from each of the Big 3's websites under the assumption of owning your own device (out of contract/tab) and within Manitoba/Saskatchewan. Yes I realize there's other plans available from Wind, Mobilicity, Speakout, 7/11, Petro, etc but for simplicity's sake I'm going to go with the Big 3 for the time being. I may update this guide later.

[IMG]http://imgur.com/VXLXQcQ.jpg[/IMG]

Based on these figures and depending on your usage, here's an example of what I would recommend. There are other examples for other situations if you look at the link below.

For a family of 4, I would recommend 10GB of shared data for a grand total of $95 plus taxes a month. The step by step instructions are:
  1. Go to Bell and get their $65 Manitoba/Saskatchewan "Family Shareable 10 GB" plan (SK/MB have the cheapest plans, more on this later). Be sure to tell them that one person is going to be using it in Manitoba/Saskatchewan, even if they aren't going to. Please note that this person will be forced to receive a MB/SK phone number (don't worry, you can give yourself a phone number from a different city later).
  2. For each additional person on the shared plan, register a "tablet data share" plan for an additional $10 per month each.
  3. Make sure you get a SIM card for each device. If you are using an iPhone 5 or newer, you will need a nano SIM. If you are using Android or Blackberry built between 2012-2015, chances are it is a micro SIM. Anything before that is likely a regular SIM. Google your cellphone model to verify which SIM card you need. You can ask for a SIM card for your main phone with the 10GB plan normally, but for the phones that will be going on the "tablet data share" plan, make sure you tell them that the SIM card will be going into a tablet, even if it's not. Simply tell them you just don't have the tablet with you but you know it takes a whatever-SIM card. Sometimes carriers will not give you a tablet data share SIM to put in your phone for whatever reason (they make less money).
  4. If your phone doesn't belong to this carrier, unlock your phone. If you call the telecommunications company you purchased your phone from, they will unlock it you for a small fee, allowing you to use your phone with any company. Or you can Google how to do it for even cheaper.
  5. Insert the SIM card into your device. If you are not sure how to do this, a quick YouTube search for your model will show you how to do it.
  6. Download and install the Fongo app for iPhone, Blackberry, or Android.
  7. Use Fongo for all your calling and texting needs (see below for an explanation on Fongo).
  8. Finished! Your phones now have all the capabilities of a regular phone for literally half the price.
Congratulations! Your total monthly bill should equate to $65 + $10 for each additional person you have on the plan. You should save over a thousand dollars this year!

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Why is Manitoba and Saskatchewan cheaper than the other provinces and territories?
A: As RFDer death_hawk puts it: "Competition. Manitoba has MTS. Saskatchewan has Sasktel. Thunder Bay has TBayTel. Everyone else is stuck with collusions."

Q: Why Bell?
A: At this point in time, they have the cheapest plan.

Q: How much can we use our phones with this amount of data (10 GB)?
A: With this plan, you could literally talk on your phone for a combined amount of approximately 10,000 minutes each month. You can also feel free to surf websites and social media just about as much as you'd like and still not run out of data. If there are 5-6 people on this plan, I would try not to download too many videos or music, however. In addition, if you are using your home or company's WiFi, it doesn't take away from your data limit.

Q: What happens if we use more than 10 GB of data within a month?
A: You pay an additional $10 per GB of data.

Q: What's the deal with Fongo?
A: Fongo is a VoIP app that gives you free unlimited (almost all of) Canada wide calling. Their phone to phone texting service is $2 a month, however. Fongo will also give you a free phone number from almost all major Canadian cities. At this point in time, this method is simply the cheapest way to have phone number to phone number contact. I recommend replacing your default phone dialer icon with the Fongo icon so you don't forget to use Fongo for your calls. Remember, this phone plan (including Fongo) runs on pure data and as a result, you don't actually have any cellular "minutes" (although your cellphone is still capable of making regular calls, you will be charged by the minute). I recommend asking your carrier to block all calls and texts as to not accidentally use it and be charged.

Q: Fongo's call quality is sometimes poor! What can I do?
A: Depending on the strength of your cellphone signal, your call quality may take a hit. This is generally not a problem in most populated areas of Canada. We generally see problems the further away you go from society (the boonies). However, there are great alternatives to Fongo which essentially allows you to do the same thing - calling landlines and other cell phones. My recommendations are: Skype, Google Hangouts Dialer, and TextPlus. I know Google Hangouts Dialer has good call quality and is free, although they don't give you a real phone number. TextPlus does give you a real phone number but you pay something like 1c per minute, and I've yet to try it out in the boonies. Perhaps someone who has can chime in ;)

Q: Why does this plan vary on how many people can be in it?
A: This plan runs on a finite amount of data. Cellphone users vary widely on how much data they consume, depending on factors such as how they communicate and what kind of media they consume. In theory, this plan may not be enough data for a single exorbitant user, or it may be enough data for as many as 50 users. Check your phone's data meter for a good measure of how much data you use.

Q: I'm not a family of 4! What do you recommend for someone like me?
A: Well, I did build a (crappy) website called www.cheapcommunication.com. You can take a mini-questionnaire there that will assess your needs and recommend a solution.

Q: Why is it more expensive to be on contract or tab?
A: TL;DR you aren't able to use a pure data plan. You are stuck in a contract and are not eligible to negotiate for cheaper retention type plans. You have essentially taken out a loan from the telecoms and are paying it back slowly every month through very expensive phone bills.

To throw in some numbers: let's assume two scenarios of 2GB a month usage over 2 years, 1) where you are using a pure data plan off contract (let's say $25 a month) and 2) where you are in a contract for your phone using the telecom's plan (let's say $75 a month).

24 months x $25/month = $600
24 months x $75/month = $1800

You have essentially tripled your phone bill by being on contract. Oh, but Mr. Blueduy, I got a free iPhone for going on contract. No you did not, what they did was give you a $400-$500 discount off the phone. They also made that right back by charging you the extra $1200 over the 2 years. $500 < $1200, an extremely high rate of return for the telecoms AND EXPENSIVE FOR YOU. I highly highly highly recommend getting out of your contract right now! The new regulations mandate that the penalty for breaking your contract is only as much as the original discount they gave you on your phone, which depreciates linearly over a period of 2-3 years with the Big 3(your contract length) and as a percentage of your bill each month with the Tab companies (Fido, Virgin, Koodo).



Well folks, that's it for now. I'll be back every few hours to update this guide if anyone has any feedback or suggestions.


Lastly, I've compiled all of this information and more and placed it on a (crappy) website I've created located at www.cheapcommunication.com.
If you go there, you can answer a mini questionnaire that makes different recommendations depending on your usage situation. Let me warn you now though that it looks terribly out of proportion, although still perfectly functional, on some mobile devices (I used a drag and drop website creator).
68 replies
Deal Fanatic
Apr 11, 2012
5763 posts
2988 upvotes
Winnipeg
may be good post, but wrong form
Be ready for the comments...
Deal Addict
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Jul 7, 2014
2207 posts
1504 upvotes
Nice post, but should be posted in shopping discussions.
Deal Addict
User avatar
Feb 18, 2013
1990 posts
13479 upvotes
This is a sleazy way to approach things - telling people to lie about their location to get a MB/SK plan.

You "have absolutely no idea" why plans are cheaper there? MB/SK have local providers (smaller than Wind/Mobilicity) that provide cheaper plans to compete - as a result, the "Big 3" have to drop their rates in those regions.

Hope they eventually audit your account and realize that none of your traffic is used in MB/SK, they would have the right at that point (especially not being on contract) to revert you to a standard market plan.
[OP]
Newbie
Sep 1, 2011
76 posts
92 upvotes
Leverage wrote: This is a sleazy way to approach things - telling people to lie about their location to get a MB/SK plan.

You "have absolutely no idea" why plans are cheaper there? MB/SK have local providers (smaller than Wind/Mobilicity) that provide cheaper plans to compete - as a result, the "Big 3" have to drop their rates in those regions.

Hope they eventually audit your account and realize that none of your traffic is used in MB/SK, they would have the right at that point (especially not being on contract) to revert you to a standard market plan.
There was an infamous Thunder Bay plan that essentially promoted the same strategy. BTW I live in SK for half the year.
Deal Expert
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Aug 6, 2001
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3992 upvotes
Stuck in a Box
Plus running fongo app on the phone doesn't really constitute as proper phone.
Deal Addict
Oct 7, 2004
1020 posts
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Love the plug for your own website and how it promotes using a different location to get a plan.
Deal Expert
User avatar
Aug 2, 2010
15193 posts
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Here 'n There
Leverage wrote: This is a sleazy way to approach things - telling people to lie about their location to get a MB/SK plan.

You "have absolutely no idea" why plans are cheaper there? MB/SK have local providers (smaller than Wind/Mobilicity) that provide cheaper plans to compete - as a result, the "Big 3" have to drop their rates in those regions.

Hope they eventually audit your account and realize that none of your traffic is used in MB/SK, they would have the right at that point (especially not being on contract) to revert you to a standard market plan.
Aside from the fact that the mods will likely close this thread down because you're not allowed to mention how you can get around the system, auditing never occurs. That's just for fear mongering. They have neither the desire nor the manpower.

Anyway, don't bother with the two dollars a month charge for text with Fongo. You can get it for free to/from CAN/US with Google voice.
Deal Fanatic
Jul 26, 2014
5219 posts
1674 upvotes
Toronto
pfff ... rookie...

using a different city is so 2010 ... try using someone elses name, its totally free for whatever plan you want!! now that is HOT!
Deal Addict
Aug 7, 2011
1732 posts
2339 upvotes
VANCOUVER
I appreciate the effort you took to post this information but your fundamental premise is flawed. VoIP is terrible and unreliable over cell phone data networks. I actually went down this path a couple years ago and the experience was horrible. I got the Telus 6GB flex plan (it was only $30/month at the time. Then I used Fongo for my VoIP. At the time Fongo didn't offer SMS service so I was such using instant chat apps like Whatsapp and Google hangouts. VoIP calling was unusable. Even with full bars and LTE I couldn't consistently make calls. Fongo kept loosing connection and reconnecting. Not to mention the battery drain. My phone would only last a few hours before running out of battery.

At first I thought it was because Fongo was a free service and "you get what you paid for" but it turns out even paid services like VOIP.ms (w/ premium tier) face the same issues.

Anyways I am no way advocating paying the outrageous $100+ month for current Robellus plans but there are smarter ways of getting cell service without going broke. Zoomer wireless (part of the Rogers Cityphone.net group) was recently offering (until a week ago) plans for $36/month of 1GB data, unlimited text and 400 minutes:
cityphone-net-double-data-minutes-text- ... n-1554357/

You just have to keep an eye on RFD for deals like this that come around. Going data only is only recommended if you seldom make phone calls with your phone and anyone else that tells you different is delusional.
Sr. Member
Dec 25, 2012
784 posts
555 upvotes
Kingston
This is a neat little way to work the system to save some cash. It's quite insane that the Fido 5GB "Tablet" plan is only $35 while the phone plan with 5GB is $94. Being an iPhone user (with the vast majority of people I know also using iPhones) we always text using iMessage, (which uses data). 95% of my phone usage is data based. I don't call anyone really, and when I do, it's not a very long call. But, and this is a big but, I do still need my cell phone number because those rare calls that I make or receive are important. I also have been using the same cell phone number for over 15 years and I'm not about to change it. Don't think this Fongo company supports porting, but I could be wrong... Don't know if it's worth the hassle for me right now, to save $10 a month. I am with Fido, but I only pay $45 a month.
[OP]
Newbie
Sep 1, 2011
76 posts
92 upvotes
goozy1 wrote: I appreciate the effort you took to post this information but your fundamental premise is flawed. VoIP is terrible and unreliable over cell phone data networks. I actually went down this path a couple years ago and the experience was horrible. I got the Telus 6GB flex plan (it was only $30/month at the time. Then I used Fongo for my VoIP. At the time Fongo didn't offer SMS service so I was such using instant chat apps like Whatsapp and Google hangouts. VoIP calling was unusable. Even with full bars and LTE I couldn't consistently make calls. Fongo kept loosing connection and reconnecting. Not to mention the battery drain. My phone would only last a few hours before running out of battery.

At first I thought it was because Fongo was a free service and "you get what you paid for" but it turns out even paid services like VOIP.ms (w/ premium tier) face the same issues.

Anyways I am no way advocating paying the outrageous $100+ month for current Robellus plans but there are smarter ways of getting cell service without going broke. Zoomer wireless (part of the Rogers Cityphone.net group) was recently offering (until a week ago) plans for $36/month of 1GB data, unlimited text and 400 minutes:
cityphone-net-double-data-minutes-text- ... n-1554357/

You just have to keep an eye on RFD for deals like this that come around. Going data only is only recommended if you seldom make phone calls with your phone and anyone else that tells you different is delusional.
That used to be the case for me as well, really crappy call quality. Lately though I haven't had any issues and call quality is good although it cuts out when I get to areas of bad reception. I think some of the new apps like Text+ and Line2 might work well. I heard theres a theory that the telecoms throttle VoIP over LTE/3/4G.
[OP]
Newbie
Sep 1, 2011
76 posts
92 upvotes
nuxper wrote: This is a neat little way to work the system to save some cash. It's quite insane that the Fido 5GB "Tablet" plan is only $35 while the phone plan with 5GB is $94. Being an iPhone user (with the vast majority of people I know also using iPhones) we always text using iMessage, (which uses data). 95% of my phone usage is data based. I don't call anyone really, and when I do, it's not a very long call. But, and this is a big but, I do still need my cell phone number because those rare calls that I make or receive are important. I also have been using the same cell phone number for over 15 years and I'm not about to change it. Don't think this Fongo company supports porting, but I could be wrong... Don't know if it's worth the hassle for me right now, to save $10 a month. I am with Fido, but I only pay $45 a month.
Yeah I think in your case it might not be worth it for the $10. Fongo says they do support number ports according to their website, but I haven't tried it myself.
Deal Addict
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Feb 8, 2006
3720 posts
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Montreal
10$ data-only sims are a good deal but I disagree with their usability for voice. I'd be surprised if 10% people could live with the annoyances that come with VoIP over cellular.

The only workaround that is acceptable for me would be to use a 10$ Data sim with a CallForwarding (3$) addon, and texting addon (5$-10$). This way, you have a fully functional Data, and Texting phone, and you can forward the calls to another phone - ideally a Call-Hunting VoIP service that calls other numbers where you might be reachable such as:

- A speakout prepaid phone or a company paid cellphone
- A VoIP Phone at home
- A *sigh* terrible VoIP client on your cellphone, such as skype.

This could be a workable solution for people who don't use many voice minutes on the go. They could answer calls on other mediums, like a cheap prepaid phone or a reliable home-based VoIP phone. This way, you are keeping your phone number at the carrier (reliable) rather than some random *****ty voip-over-3g device.
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Deal Fanatic
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Mar 5, 2013
6075 posts
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Manila, Philippines
The cheapest way I see is the Tablet plan and use all the apps that can make call and text
FreedomMobile 35% Friends & Family
Sr. Member
Sep 15, 2012
666 posts
319 upvotes
Mississauga
d1ulove3 wrote: The cheapest way I see is the Tablet plan and use all the apps that can make call and text
Nice location lol. *wink wink*

Thanks OP but nothing beats an actual cell phone service. VOIP seems too unreliable to me.

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