The best & worst Canadian wireless data providers

Stewart Midwinter 8 years ago

Who's the best (i.e. cheapest), and who's the worst (most expensive), Canadian wireless data provider? Let's say you already have a cellphone for voice calls, but want to have an internet connection wherever you go; you're going to buy a device and want to get connected. Whom should you choose, and whom should you avoid at all costs? As always, it all depends, but the short answer is: stay away from Rogers.

Whom to choose for your provider depends firstly on what kind of device you have. Generally, all the providers in Canada are catering to business users, and are screwing individual users blind charging individual consumers what they think they can get away with. There's one exception to this (Bell), so read on.

The best deals out there right now can be had if you purchase and use a wireless data PC card (a.k.a. PCMCIA card) that you plug into a notebook PC. In this case, Rogers wins by a hair, thanks to their new pc-card data plan announced last week. Your monthly bill for $1 GB would be only $65 on Rogers, and $100 on Bell. If you went over the limit, and used 2 GB, your bill on Rogers would be only $75, but a whopping $1100 on Bell and $3100 on Telus!

If you are a Blackberry user, prepare to be hosed if you want to do lots of browsing. The main tip here is: buy the most expensive data plan you or your company can afford in order to avoid a heart attack at the end of the month (think of the extra expense as anti-heart-attack insurance). Rogers' $100 Blackberry plan is the worst of any: it gives you only 200 MB of data. If you happened to use 1 GB, you'd be paying $7100! Bell and Telus also have a $100 plan, but the same 1 GB would cost only $100. If you go over your limit to 2 GB, you'll be paying $16100 on Rogers, $3100 on Telus and $1100 on Bell.

If you have a wireless PDA or smartphone, the situation is about as bad as for Blackberry users, as the plans are just as expensive. If you have deep pockets, or an employer paying your bills, you can get the Rogers $80 plan, which gives you only 200 MB of data (that's just 3 graphics-rich web pages per day). If you happen to go over, and use 1 GB, you'll be paying $4280! Bell and Telus are quite a bit better in this regard; their $100 plan for PDAs is identical to their Blackberry plan, so you'll get 1 GB for that $100. If you go over, and use 2 GB, your bill will be $1100 on Bell or $3100 on Telus, but that's still better than on Rogers where your bill would be $9680!

But maybe you don't have a company paying your PDA or smartphone bill, so you decide to try and save some money and get the $25 plan. On Rogers this gets you a mere 4 MB of data (that's about 4 graphics-rich web pages, or 1 YouTube video). If you got carried away and started browsing a little more, and used up 1 GB of data, you'd get a bill for $25205 at the end of the month! Bell and Telus would be even worse, charging you $30551 at the end of the month. This is what has made Ted Rogers the 2nd-richest man in Canada. Angry yet?

If you own or operate a smarthone or PDA in Canada and cannot guarantee you won't exceed your data limits, buy the $100 plan and consider the extra expense to be bankruptcy insurance.

Whether you use a Blackberry or a PDA, the only way to protect yourself from a financial disaster in Canada is to buy a bigger data plan. The penalties for over-use of your data plan are so bad that it's like visiting a country where the penalty for exceeding the speed limit with your car is having your wife and children shot by a firing squad - only in that country none of the cars have speedometers so you have no way of knowing how fast you are driving. Similarly, in Canada none of the wireless providers give you a tool to let you know how much data you've used. None of the providers will send you a text message to say you've exceeded your data limits, and none of them will turn off your data access when you hit your plan limit.

So what's a person to do if you still want to live the wireless internet life and not risk losing your car, your home and everything you own, just because your teenager got a hold of your Blackberry for an hour? Bell offers a $7/mo unlimited browsing plan on their HTC Touch smartphone. You can't use it as a tethered modem for your notebook PC, but it's all you can eat on the little screen. By the way, that plan is not offered on any other PDA or Blackberry in the Bell line-up, as the plan is limited to use on "phones". For some reason (thankfully), Bell considers the HTC Touch to be a "phone" rather than a PDA, even though it runs Windows Mobile 6 and is a fully-functioning PDA (albeit with a small 2.8" screen rather than the 3.5" or 4.0" screens of most other PDAs).

Second-best for wireless data would be Virgin Mobile Canada's Tidal Wave Data Plan, a $10/month unlimited browsing plan only available on their Samsung m510 phone. The browser on that phone's tiny screen does okay on regular HTML web pages, including GMail, but doesn't display properly pages that rely on Javascript for placement of screen elements (many sites).

One more thing: if you go to the US, turn off your data access! You can check the details in the data-plan webpages below, but generally all three of the Canadian majors will charge you $3000-$6000/GB of data transfer while you are roaming in the US. For more information, check the providers' rate-plan pages:

Provider PC-card plans Blackberry plans PDA plans
Bell PC-card plans,
unlimited mobile browser
Blackberry plans PDA plans
Telus PC-card plan Blackberry & PDA plans
Rogers (inaccessible with Firefox) new PC-card plans Blackberry data plans PDA plans,
business PDA plans

Costs for each carrier and device type, as of January 25, 2008

Provider PC-card plans Blackberry plans PDA plans
Bell Bell's PC-card data plans bell blackberry data plans Bell's PDA rate plans
Telus Telus' PC-card data plans Telus' Blackberry data plans Telus' PDA data plans
Rogers (inaccessible with Firefox) Rogers' PC-card data plans Rogers' Blackberry data plans Rogers PDA data plans

  • · Comments are closed
  • Dyllon 8 years ago

    Isn't it strange that you bring this report out on Feb 5 and you have no mention of Telus $15 Unlimited* data plan that works for any pda or blackberry. Although now that $15 plan has changed. And Telus and Bell offer $100 unlimited* data for Air Cards. *Not actually unlimited, some conditions apply :p

  • Dan_5428 8 years ago

    I clicked on the link for the Telus Blackberry and PDA plans: and it appears that the $45 data plan gets you unlimited everything with no overage charges. This seems to contradict your statement that 2GB data usage costs you $3100 with Telus on the $100 plan (which I don't even see?) I'm asking cause I'm looking for the best plan myself - am I missing some small print here or something?

  • SN_3243 7 years ago

    Hi I just recently bought a Blackberry Pearl 8130 (a week ago). And I activated the new Smart-Add-On Plan by Telus which is $45 for unlimited Email/IM/Internet/TXT as well as Caller ID & Voicemail. I tried to read any fine print but there was none except this: --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Offers available until March 31, 2008. Rates are subject to change without notice. 1 PDA smartphones (with TELUS mobile Email only) and BlackBerry® smartphones (with BlackBerry® Internet Service only). 2 Unlimited instant messaging available with Windows Live Messenger on PDA smartphones only and BlackBerry® Messenger on BlackBerry® smartphones only. * Data used while roaming in the U.S. is charged at $8/MB. Any usage incurred through a laptop/computer will be charged at $8/MB. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- So I'm a little confused as well about this posting - trying to figure out exactly IF there's an hidden "cap" to this unlimited internet browing plan. If it helps - being paranoid myself of excessive charges :) - I called Telus on 3 different occasions and spoke to 3 different Telus reps that promised me I have unlimited internet browsing. I REALLY DO HOPE that its unlimited since i've been using the internet everyday like an addict!! lol I INVITED Any help/comment on this matter would help - as this post DOES NOT refer to the new plans by Telus that was introduced this month (Feb 2008). Thanks!

  • Ross_57618 7 years ago

    I looked at the Telus plans and I was very interested. Unfortunately I don't see the same plan offered in BC. Anyone happen to spot it? Did I miss an unlimited plan? Please post if you know of one in BC and I will get notified. Cheers.

  • Surfing 7 years ago

    Telus does have some interewting plans - if you're creative. unlimited is one of them for Data; however the fine print is this - "with TELUS mobile Email only) and BlackBerry® smartphones (with BlackBerry® Internet Service only)." This means that in order to get the unlimited data and web surfing you need to have either a Telus mobile account (email) or a Blackberry internet account and use that. If you want to use your, you'll get soaked according to the write up here. There are some decent hosted providers for exchange and BB in Canada, but you're carrier is the one who'll be billing you up the arse for bandwidth. DOn't mean to be crass, but I calls ' em as I sees 'em. Greed.

  • Shelby_85315 7 years ago

    I can't beleive you only have three service providers, there are so many more.

  • Kevin_12314 7 years ago

    We found a way to bypass the wireless providers charges. It's an incredibly simple concept. Just turn all your calls to incoming. So we developed software for your mobile, when you make a call, it sends a signal to our network first, then we trigger a call back to your phone. Now you bypass your provider and you can make calls anywhere for Skype like rates. Just check it out, or call me, I can explain exactly how it works. Cheers Kevin

  • Sabrina_187 6 years ago

    How about Fido's unlimited web browsing for 20$ or the current one that I have now with virgin, unlimited everything internet for 45$ including call display and vmail. ?????????? oh, and i have a blackberry pearl.

  • Easy to use cellphone 6 years ago

    Canadian carriers aren't that bad compared to their american counterparts. The phone companies rob us blind in the states so we can have our fancy new toys (read: iphones)

  • Peter_3843 6 years ago

    Take a look at Virgin Mobile. You can get umlimited everything for data $45 per month.

  • lh_22284 5 years ago

    time to update this

  • K_91395 5 years ago

    I second "Time to update this"

  • CB_16070 5 years ago

    Well someone is pretty biased against Rogers. Didn't even bother researching that they DO in fact offer ways to monitor your usage. Next time you write an article, try to keep your selfcentered, uneducated opinions to yourself. 1.Use your first 2 months to see how much data you really need, with no overage fees. This gives you 2 full months to monitor your usage and make sure that you're on the right plan to get the best value. 2.Receive text message alerts when you're close to reaching your monthly data allotment in your plan. 3.Monitor your usage – track your data usage right from your wireless device via My Account or online via My Rogers at

  • poorboy 5 years ago

    It does need to be updated to ALL the plans out there, regions etc. MORE DETAIL. My brother got a plan down at the coast which is not up here which is really cheap, unbeatable but with a newer carrier, no contract. With everyone using a phone, plans are very important. With all the more usage maybe we will all fry

  • Sam_77527 4 years ago

    You guys posting 100 days ago saying update this "3 months apx ago" the info is wrong arent looking that it was posted 1200 almost days ago . just under 4 years. when they were infact gouging ppl. that year in feb tho the canadian government put limits on the ripoffs a company can do "is about the time the new plans came out the ppl here are talking about. but it was written like the week before. bad timing for the poster, but accurate when written none-the-less.

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