Are Canadians Paying Too Much for Phone Plans?


WhistleOut
09 September 2015

It’s no secret that Canadians pay more for their phone plans than they would in many other countries around the world, but how much is the difference really?

To figure this out, we took a standard two-year 1GB phone plan from the major carriers and compared it to similar plans in the US. Our phone of choice was the soon-to-be-replaced, but still overwhelmingly-popular, iPhone 6 with 16GB of storage, and the plans needed to include unlimited nationwide calls.

Comparing Canadian and U.S. plans is a bit tricky to do, especially with the multitude of variations across the provinces here in Canada. The plans are never going to match up feature for feature, but we still think you'll be surprised, and maybe outraged, at the results.

Also note: we are comparing dollar amounts directly here; we do not account for variations in currency value between USD and CAD.

Money talk

We start with Canada’s three largest carriers: Rogers, Telus and Bell. Each charges a flat rate across the provinces, with the exception of Manitoba (MB), Quebec (QC) and Saskatchewan (SK) – most of which have cheaper options, thanks in part to competition from the smaller telcos MTS, Videotron and SaskTel, respectively.

We're going to compare the Minimum Total Cost over 24-months. This combines all plan and handset repayment costs over two-years, and is the fairest comparison. If you're searching for a new phone plan here on WhistleOut, this is one of the sort options, and is a great view for spotting a bargain.

These plans included:

  • 1GB data (or closest available plan above 1GB)
  • Unlimited nation-wide calls (for the fairest comparison with the U.S. carriers)
  • An iPhone 6 with 16GB storage
  • A 2-year contract (where applicable)
  • Connection and SIM charges have been applied
Difference in total minimum cost over a 24-month phone contract

1GB Plans
or closest approximate


Standard: 1GB / QC: 2GB


Standard: 1GB / QC: 1.5GB

Standard: 1GB / QC: 1.5GB

VS Verizon
(1GB plan)

Total min. cost

$559.07 more
QC: $319.07 more

$450.08 more
QC: $210.08 more

$554.03 more
QC: $314.03 more

VS AT&T
(2GB plan)

Total min. cost

$484 more
for 1GB less

QC: $244 more

$375.01 more
for 1GB less

QC: $135.01 more

$478.96 more
for 1GB less

QC: $238.96 more

VS T-Mobile
(1GB plan)

Total min. cost

$544.07 more
QC: $304.07 more

$435.08 more
QC: $135.08 more

$539.03 more
QC: $299.03 more

VS Sprint
(1GB plan)

Total min. cost

$642.83 more
QC: $402.83 more

$533.84 more
QC: $293.84 more

$637.79 more
QC: $397.79 more


1GB iPhone 6
Rogers plan
1GB iPhone 6
Telus plan
1GB iPhone 6
Bell plan

It's worth noting that Bell offers the iPhone 6 in Alberta and British Columbia for $100 less than the rest of the provinces with the "Standard" plans. This makes no sense, of course, but it is a fact we need to contend with.

As you can see, for most of the nation Canada's major carriers do not compare favorably to those in the US. In many cases they're significantly more expensive -- mostly an increase of around 25%.

Plans in Quebec, while still more expensive, tend to make up for the price difference by offering more data. In some cases this seems like an acceptable trade-off, but this boils down to how much you feel you should pay for 1GB of data.

Saskatchewanians and Manitobans rejoice!

Things get pretty interesting when you look at the comparison from the perspective of Manitoba and Saskatchewan. Turns out folk in MB and SK actually get a better deal than if they were in the US.

Once again these plans included:

  • 1GB data (or closest available plan above 1GB)
  • Unlimited nation-wide calls
  • An iPhone 6 with 16GB storage
  • A 2-year contract (where applicable)
  • Connection and SIM charges have been applied
Difference in total minimum cost over a 24-month phone contract

1GB Plans
or closest approximate

MB: 2GB / SK: 1GB


MB: 1GB / SK: 1GB

MB: 1GB / SK: 1GB

VS Verizon
(1GB plan)

Total min. cost

MB: $160.93 less
SK: $280.93 less

MB: $269.92 less
SK: $269.92 less

MB: $265.97 less
SK: $265.97 less

VS AT&T
(2GB plan)

Total min. cost

MB: $236 less
SK: $356 less

MB: $344.99 less
SK: $344.99 less

MB: $341.04 less
SK: $341.04 less

VS T-Mobile
(1GB plan)

Total min. cost

MB: $175.93 less
SK: $295.93 less

MB: $284.92 less
SK: $284.92 less

MB: $280.97 less
SK: $280.97 less

VS Sprint
(1GB plan)

Total min. cost

MB: $77.17 less
SK: $197.17 less

MB: $186.16 less
SK: $186.16 less

MB: $182.21 less
SK: $182.21 less


1GB iPhone 6
Rogers plans
1GB iPhone 6
Telus plans
1GB iPhone 6
Bell plans

Apart from the fact that folks in Manitoba and Saskatchewan are better off than the those in the US for 1GB plans, there is an even larger disparity between the rest of Canada and these two provinces, with the occasional exception of Quebec and its bigger plans.

In the case of Rogers and Telus, most of Canada pays $720 more over two years for the same phone and same plan than Manitobans pay for 2GB. For Bell that number is as high as $820 in many provinces. This is an extraordinary price difference, and something we believe needs to be addressed sooner rather than later.

Canada-wide calling should be the norm

Differentiating between local and national calls is something that was once common globally, but has been long-abandoned in many other countries. The US, UK and even Australia have all moved to a flat-rate system for any standard calls to made within their respective borders.

Standard calls are those made from a cell phone or home landline phone to another personal cell or landline. They don’t necessarily include all numbers, such as premium services, but they do account for the vast majority of calls.

In short, charging extra per month for “Canada-wide” calls is something Canadians should not be dealing with.

Certainly, the idea that you could sign up to a local plan in Manitoba, travel to Ontario, make a call within Ontario and still pay long-distance rates (because you signed up in Manitoba) is a confounding and unnecessary status quo.

This separation of local and national calls is not the standard for all carriers in all provinces, but it is an all-too-common theme in the majority of locations.


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