It’s said that the biggest fear one has it that of public peaking. For me, my biggest fear is not having cellular service, and not being able to connect while on the go.

So, how does one connect while in Canada

Some quick tips to staying connected while on the go:
The communication infrastructure of Canada is what you would expect for an industrialized country. However, the cost of voice and data communication tends to generally be more expensive compared to most European countries. By phone

Canada Phone photo

Photo by sfllaw

The international country code for Canada is 1. Area codes and local phone numbers are basically the same as used in the United States. (Three-digit area code, seven-digit local phone number). Some cities only require a seven-digit local phone number to place a call, but all major centres except Halifax require the three-digit area code. Mobiles Cell phones are widely used, but due to Canada’s large size and relatively sparse population, many rural areas that are not adjacent to major travel corridors have no service. Of the major national carriers, Bell Mobility and TELUS operate national CDMA networks and a more modern UMTS (WDCMA/HSPDA) network. Rogers Wireless operates a GSM network. All of these networks operate on the 850MHz/1900MHz bands and phones from outside North America are unlikely to work unless they are specifically marketed as World Phones, or Quad-Band. Note that quad-band/world phones may still not be compatible with Bell and TELUS’s HSDPA network, but they should work on Rogers. Both Rogers and TELUS operate separate discount brands using the same infrastructure as their main networks.

For Rogers this is the Fido and Chatr services, and for TELUS it is Koodo Mobile. These brands typically aren’t really much cheaper (the parent company is obviously not going to undercut itself), but the plan options may be better suited for some people. In addition to the major incumbent networks noted above there are several regional carriers and some new start-up carriers servicing limited geographical areas. One of these new carriers is Wind mobile, operating a 1700/2100MHz GSM network in a half dozen or so metropolitan areas. All of the major national carriers offer pre-paid SIM cards with start-up packages in the range of $75 with a specified amount of airtime included. Prepaid plans usually have a per minute rate of $0.25, but many have “evenings and weekends” add-ons for around $30/month. Visitors from outside North America will be surprised to learn that Canadian carriers charge for incoming calls, either by using a plan’s included minutes, or at a rate of $0.25 to $0.35/minute. In addition, if you are outside of your phone number’s local calling area when answering a call, you will be charged long distance on top of the air time charge.

This means that answering an incoming call outside of the phone’s local calling area can cost you up to $0.70/minute. Internet via GSM is prohibitively expensive. Due to the nearly complete dominance of three companies, mobile rates in Canada are among the highest in the world. The Canadian government continually promises to open up the market and help smaller companies compete and continually fails to do so. However, the recent entry of WIND Mobile, a smaller player with substantial overseas ownership was recently approved and may signal a change in the official government stance. If entering with an iPad, be aware that Bell and Telus will NOT offer local iPad plans without some form of Canadian ID.

Other tips on staying connected while in Canada? Please add your comments and tips.