I decided to downgrade to a cheaper cell phone after looking over my bills for the last year or so. Previously, I was on Telus‘ Mike service, whose IDEN-based features I’d never used — the only person I knew who still owned an IDEN device was Meredith’s brother, but he ran over his phone with a tractor several months ago. Oops.
Looking at my bill, I was paying about $40/mo. for around 80 minutes of calls. This was insane! My per-minute rate worked out to about 50c/min., once you factored in the “Network Access Fee” (as though you have a choice as to whether to pay that) and taxes. I decided that getting a pay-as-you-go phone was the best alternative.
As a good engineer, I scoped out my requirements first, and did my research. Here’s a summary of my findings.
|Company Name||Cost||Top-Up Details||Other Charges||Roaming||Call Display||Voicemail||Text Messaging|
|President’s Choice Mobile||20c per minute||$15 top up: provides up to 75 minutes of local calling, valid for 30 days; $25 top up: provides up to 125 minutes of local calling, valid for 60 days.||N/A||Need to coordinate 2+ weeks in advance and provide a credit/debit card||x||x||x|
|Virgin Mobile||25c per minute (on “Small” plan, i.e. $0 monthly fee)||$100 top-up expires in 365 days; $50 in 120; $25 in 49; $15 in 45||N/A||No roaming possible||x||x||x (15c per message sent)|
|Telus||25c, 33c or 40c a minute||$50 top-up expires in 60 days; $25 in 60; $10 in 30||N/A||unclear||x||$10/mo (SPARK10)||only with SPARK|
|Rogers||25c to 39c a minute||minimum $10-$30 top-up every month||911 access charge each month||Roaming in US for $2.49/minute||unclear||x (but billed for each minute of a message too)||x (15c per message sent)|
|Fido||20c per minute with >=$20 top-up; otherwise 30c a minute||$50 top-up expires in 60 days; $30, $20 and $10 expire in 30||50c 9-1-1 charge every month||Roaming not available (only with monthly invoice packages)||x||$5/mo||x (15c per message sent, but it’s not explicit that SMS is included)|
|Bell Mobility||30¢/minute for the first 2 minutes and 5¢/minute for the rest of the call||$25 card expires in 60 days; $15 card expires in 30 days||$3.95/mo system access fee + $1.00/mo 9-1-1 fee||only with automatic top-up||no||up to 3 one-minute messages||no|
You can see that there is quite a high variance between the various prepaid mobile providers out there. Some of them, like Bell, even charge you the same Network Access Fee even though you’re on a prepaid plan! I decided that my requirements were:
- No network access fees or extra (e.g. 911) fees
- Reasonable per-minute rate – no weird variations like Telus has
- Possible to roam in the United States
- Text messaging, for a cost, of course
- Bundled voice mail
- Call display
Based on these requirements, I selected President’s Choice Mobile and bought a new Nokia 2855i phone — much lighter than my old Motorola i90c, and it has a colour screen and Bluetooth too! I’m very happy both with the phone and the service from PC. One amusing fact: PC farms out the actual work to Bell, but if you were to get a pay-as-you-go service from Bell, they’d charge you $3.95/mo. for a system access fee, plus $1.00/mo. for a 9-1-1 access fee! PC Mobility has no such gouging — plus it’s more feature-rich (call display, bundled voice mail, etc.)
The best part is that since the phone is functionally the same as a Bell phone, I get even better reception within the CBC Broadcast Centre than I did with a Telus phone, and I can still send e-mail to the phone by specifying firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’m very happy with my choice and I can definitely recommend PC Mobility for low-volume cellphone users. Oh – and if you’re interested in an old IDEN phone – I’m selling mine :-).