Switching Wireless Providers: What You Need To Know

25 May 2015

There are a dozen good reasons to consider a change from one wireless provider to another. A different provider might offer a superior network experience, might have a better range of devices, and per most important, a different provider might have a better price to offer.

If you’ve been a customer with your current provider for a while, here are a few things you need to keep in mind.

Know Your Network

If you are planning to take your phone to your next plan, and save with a BYO plan, then you need to make sure that your current phone is compatible with your next network.

Happily, most of the wireless networks in Canada use the same frequencies to deliver wireless services. Years ago you might have heard that it was difficult to switch providers for compatibility issues, but these days there is very little differences between the major networks. Here is a quick breakdown:

3G Network Frequencies:

  • Bell / Rogers / Telus: 850 & 1900Mhz
  • WIND / Mobilicity: 1700 / 2100

4G Network Frequencies:

  • Bell / Rogers / Telus: 1700Mhz

What this means is that a phone bought on one of the major networks will work on one of the other networks so long as it is network unlocked. Phones bought through WIND and Mobilicity may still work too, as many new phone support a number of network frequencies simultaneously. Find out by looking up the handset’s specifications, or testing it out by putting a SIM card from the network you would like to use next.

Also, remember that if you are currently a subscriber of one of the smaller brands (Koodoo, Fido, Virgin, etc) that these use the same networks as the big brands, so the guidelines for switching apply.

Unlocking Your Phone

When you buy a phone through one of the wireless providers, you might find that it is networked locked, meaning that you cannot use it on a competing network. This is an old safeguard employed by the wireless companies to make sure that customers who buy phones through them for cheap remain customers for a contract period.

This sucks, right? Well, the government thought so as well, so as of June 3 2015 a new Code of Conduct will be enforced to protect the rights of consumers. One of the new rules states that all phones bought on a contract over 90-days ago must be unlocked at the customer’s request.

To make it happen, just contact the wireless provider who you bought the phone off, and they will give you a code to enter into the phone to unlock it.

Phone Number Porting

When switching from one provider to the next, it is important to let your new provider know that you want to keep your current number -- this is known as number porting. Things to keep in mind:

  • Don't cancel your old number. If you do, you may lose it. Instead, keep your old account active and tell your new provider that you want to port your number. The new provider will initiate the process and your old account with become inactive once the process is complete.
  • You own your number. There is no reason for a telco to not be able to complete this request. This is everyday work for them.
  • You may have to pay. Depending on the telco, there may be a small fee for porting your number.

Our Ultimate Guide to Switching and Saving

Long 3-year phone plans are a thing of the past, and if you already own a phone, you can save a bunch of money each month with a BYO Phone (or SIM-Only) phone plan. Here are our best guides to get you started; everything you need to know about how these plans work, and some of the best plans broken down by which network provides them.

TIP: Because all the major Canadian networks use the same technologies, there is a good chance that your unlocked phone will work on all of the plans listed in these guides.

Know About Fees

While the new Code of Conduct states that the telcos must unlock phone when requested, it doesn’t say that it should be done for free. If fact, there is no regulation on how much this process will cost, although it is usually fairly cheap.

Here are the current fees charged by the telcos to unlock a phone (this is a once-off charge, per device):

  • Bell = $50
  • Telus = $35
  • Rogers = $50
  • WIND = $30
  • Fido = $50
  • Koodoo = $35
  • Virgin = $50

Know Your Rights

We’ve mentioned part of the new Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) Wireless Code of Conduct, but there is more to it than just when and how you can unlock your phone. These are far-reaching and important new industry changes, and they are all for the benefit of consumers, so they are worth reading.

Head over to the CRTC website to find the new Code, or check out this infographic if you’d like the cheat sheet version.



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