Canada’s Cell Phone Rates: the Highest in the World


When it comes to owning a cell phone in Canada, we have lots of “choice”. When I mention choice, I’m talking about the ‘Big 3’ carriers offering plans that are pretty much identical. Just take a look at iPhone 4 voice and data plans as an example.

Don’t forget their low-cost brands that are out to punish any competitors trying to enter our profitable market.

A recent report by the New America Foundation’s Open Technology Initiative (OTI) concluded that Canada tops the entire world for the most expensive voice and data rates. This is not a surprise if you’ve lived or traveled outside of Canada. But for those living here, we still feel that our rates could be cheaper.

Here’s an excerpt from ArsTechnica:

OTI examined prepaid, unlimited, and postpaid plans in 11 countries in order to determine the best rates in each. Overall, the foundation said that mobile users in the US need to pay at least $59.99 for a complete cell phone package that includes voice, text, and data (which we’ll break down in a minute). Comparatively, users in Canada must pay US$67.50—making Canada the only country to top the US.

India and Hong Kong came in with the cheapest complete plans, at $12.90 and $13.50 respectively.

When it came to pre-paid plans, Canada was at the top of the list at $0.38/minute, behind Japan. Gee, at that rate, you’re better off using a pay phone to make a call–that is if you can still find one!

If you’re looking for a discount on your cell phone plan, the clear answer is to move to India or Hong Kong. What do you think? Will we ever see cheaper cell phone rates in Canada? Are you happy with with you’re paying for your cell phone?

[ArsTechnica, OTI] Thanks Milton for sending this in!


  • H2

    It’s expensive if you are starting a new plan. But if you are off a 3-year contract with Rogers, you can negotiate a very good retention deal. There is a huge discussion thread about this on RFD.

  • Anonymous

    Why am I not surprised….,

    And retention plans are cheaper but still quite high compared to other countries.

    CRTC? what’s that? Another useless government agency not looking out for consumers….,.

  • Junior Cortorreal

    That’s why we have retention lol

  • ReyT

    I have a $17.50, 250 weekday minutes voice plan, and with a good data plan (that I use most of the time), I average about 100 minutes of voice calls per month. A decent plan, I’d say.

  • Anonymous

    Doesn’t surprise me at all.

    That’s what you get when you have a closed market like we do.

  • Sn0wBuZzED

    i have 35$ retention plan from rogers.. : Unlimited voice, call display, voice mail and 2500 text… + 30$ for 6 gig and 3$ for access fee… i pay 68$/month but i have almost all unlimited…

  • roadcarver

    It is what it is… If you know someone who has a corporate plan, it may be cheaper.

  • Frankie

    Sn0wBuZzED is correct. Rogers and Fido now negotiate to keep their existing customers from going elsewhere. $68 will get you unlimited voice, call display and voicemail and the other little things. 2500 text and 6GB data. You just have to call and ask for it at the end of your contract.

  • DAvid

    “With a land mass of 1,104 km2 (426 sq mi) and a population of seven million people, Hong Kong is one of the most densely populated areas in the world”

    Might this be one of the reasons why Hong Kong offers such low rates? There’s practically no infrastructure cost.


  • Anonymous

    Wow man, that is a great thread, thanks !

  • Andrew

    If you’re already a Rogers customer, then retention plan is the way to go. This is what I’ve currently got:
    * 200 daytime minutes
    * Free evenings and weekends (evenings start @ 6pm)
    * 1000 Cdn long distance minutes
    * 2500 sent text messages, unlimited incoming
    * Voice mail & Caller ID
    * 6GB Data
    $45 + tax (includes all fees)

    Note: This does NOT include Visual Voicemail ($8 extra), or picture text messages. Considering I only get about 4 vm’s a month, it didn’t seem worth the extra $8.

    I’ve seen slightly better, and much worse retention plans. I guess it all depends on who you get on the line, and how long you’ve been a customer.

  • Hen555hen555

    I have
    200/1000 E/We + unl. Incom. 25.00
    iPhone value pack + VVmail. 15.00
    (includes caller id unlimited text N name display)
    System access fee 6.95
    911 0.75

    Total before taxes is 48.30
    I have no data.

  • Anonymous

    I used to have a corporate plan but I dumped it as I could do way better with just a personal account. And I mean WAY Better!!

  • Anonymous


  • roadcarver

    So my current plan is: $25/200 mins per month, detailed billing, voice mail, unlimited weeknights and weekends. On top of that is my $30 6Gb plan.

    LMK if yours is better than this… the only thing that I’m missing is text plans 🙁

  • Anonymous

    And it’s apathetic attitudes like yours the “Big 3” count on to continue to gouge the rest of us!

  • Anonymous

    I’ve said it before…I’ll say it again. It’s called collusion people. That’s why there is no significant price difference on competing plans from the “Big 3” and their “value” brands. When your only competition is yourself you can do whatever the hell you want! It’s a monopoly in it’s purest form. I was really hoping WIND mobile was going to change the Canadian cell phone price plan landscape but……alas…..they’ve just fallen in line with every other carrier with nothing cavalier or precedent setting.

  • Well – at least we can buy the iPhones unlocked from Apple – I guess that’s something.

  • Anonymous

    Partly because of the country we’re in, costs are high to run our network. But mostly because all of our telecommunication companies are full of it. Even internet costs at home are a rip off. Some of the lowest bandwidth plans in the world.

  • Do you just run your iPhone off of Wi-Fi?

  • Anonymous

    I have an awesome retention plan from Rogers pretty much all I need and it’s almost unlimited for me, 350 day 6 pm eveningR2r My 5 1000 candian long distance minRet value pack CID Vm 2500 textAnd 6 gb data All for 40.40 taxes in and unlimited incoming calls

  • thatsnazzyiphoneguy

    ive been with rogers since 2004.

    i have a 20 dollars plan or m iphone 4 XD

    5 dollars for 40anytime minutes
    5 dollars for 250 free texts
    6.95 acess fee
    75 cent 911 fee (somehere around their)
    plus HST

    about 20 dollars

    so u can all suck on that XD

    oh and no data, i dont travel much and everywhere practically has wifi so im gooood

  • Sarthak

    whats the use? you are still paying high prices for the services. you are only saving on not having to sign a contract and with no decent alternative in sight in the near future, we will continue paying exorbitant amounts to these monopolies.
    I’ve lived in India, and the rates are so competitive because of the competition there. Heck even the U.S has nationwide free calling to the customers of the same carrier.
    Not to mention, basic plans here have “evenings” starting at 9. Seriously??

  • Johnlee

    I just moved to the UK from Canada- about a week after I got here, I picked up a LG GT 540 optimus(cheap android phone) for 100quid- 160 cad with taxes already in. Now with a smartphone in hand, I found a rolling contract (I can cancel any month I want to) 500 minutes, 3000 text messages, 500 mb data- for 10 quid- taxes in. 16 dollars per month

    by the way- anywhere in the UK is local.

    my phone in Canada was a silly samsung flip phone and I paid 27$ on koodo for 300 min 60 texts a month… I was so shocked by the prices in the UK after getting use to them in Canadian

  • Bob

    Oh my god, I’m sick of seeing these things. How about let’s take a look at land mass versus population density and then we can figure out why the big 3 have higher rate plans, it’s not cheap having coverage over the entire country. Give me a break, stop your bitching, and when you have to go to Fort Mac or wherever the hell in the middle of nowhere you are, be thankful you have coverage, because garan-freaking-teed without the rate plan costs you would never otherwise have coverage.

  • Gna

    I have all of it unlimited gauranteed for $50

  • Hyperextension

    Until the Canadian Government steps in, Rogers and the others will keep charging all they want and we will have to pay it if we want a cell phone. I know many people in Europe that use cell only. Don’t even have a home phone. They even call us in Canada on the cell and it is cheaper.

  • Heres the reasons why our rates are so high:
    1. No competition
    2. they work together

    MOST IMPORTANT: They waste money on stupid things like HSPA 21.5mbps+ and 4G. I am pree sure no phone can support 21mbps+ yet or even need it. The USA is upgrading 7.2mbps still.

  • Abdul

    Exactly. My dad works for a company in the states that manages the a whole bunch of plants that were outsourced to India. Why wouldn’t companies want to outsource their business people. If i’m gonna have to pay my employee’s cellphone bills, it much rather may 12.50 than some “discounted” employer plan (a 10 dollar discount, isn’t a discount).

    But then again, lets look at the average income of a canadian vs. an indian. 12.50 may be the price of lunch to us, but in india 560 rupees is a week or two’s work for some people.

  • Abdul

    you retentions people AREN’T the norm. this is shouldnt be about how below the national average you are, but how high our national average is and what we can do about it.

  • DAvid

    I took a look at the original article. Their methodology does not follow their hypothesis. They state they look for the most cost effective plan, but then piece one together from various bits which really don’t exist in the real world. AFAK, the cheapest readily available smartphone plan in Canada is about $50 – voice, text, data, not the $67.50 these guys claim.

    Garbage in Garbage out.


  • AgB

    I’m living in London right now and I’m amazed by how much cheaper phone plans are here. My only problem is it seems I wasn’t able to unlock my iPhone 4. It’s jailbroken on iOS 4.01, but even after using ultrasn0w I wasn’t able to use a vodafone or O2 sim card. I don’t l know what I did wrong. Can anybody offer any suggestions? I would really appreciate it as I would love to start using my iPhone here in the UK. Thanks.

  • Kuldip kainth

    What about Portugal’s rates?
    Portugal has to pay over 1000 Euros for an outright iPhone 4

  • Eason_1108

    what? $68 is expensive man~

  • Anonymous

    They didn’t seem to look at the voice & data packages. Just went straight to voice only, then straight to text only, then data only and added the 3 up. So while you can get a cheaper rate by taking the combo pack, it is still higher than the other countries.

    Simple math: Take the US price add 13% and you get the CAD price. So yup $60 USD = $67 CAD! =P

  • Kevin

    Its hard for companies to make it cheaper because we just don’t have the population in canada compared to the countries with the lowest rates.

  • that’s only $1000 a year man !

  • BC

    Operating costs in Canada, with our sheer size and relatively small population may play a part. Yet the big three are among the most profitable companies in Canada. So profitable in fact that other upstart companies are chomping at the bit for a piece of the action. Being a free-enterprise supporter I see nothing wrong with this.

    But where I get a little tense is with the price-fixing, sleazoid “cancellation fees” and, in the case of pay-as-you-go customers, the company practice of deleting unused minutes (that the customer paid for!) at the end of each one-month purchase period when the customer fails to make another purchase by midnight of the last day.

    This is THEFT, pure and simple. Why wont the CRTC do anything about it, you ask? Simple: Because more money spent by consumers = more taxes in the federal (and provincial) coffers. This will continue no matter which federal political party is in power. (I *could* comment that I suspect these companies have feds in their back pocket. But without solid proof of this it’s quite a blatant accusation, so I wont).

    So what can we do? If at all possible, BOYCOTT THE BIG THREE. I fired Telus three years ago as my land-line, internet and cell phone service provider. My house has been a Telus-free zone ever since. I wont even try Koodo because Telus owns it. If we support the upstarts where possible we drive the big three into submission, or at least make them start to play nice(r).

  • Kyle

    I dont understand I was told when I got my iPhone that I HAVE TO get a data plan. Now im reading from people that I don’t need it and i can just connect to WiFi?

  • Asd

    Taking a hit in profits would be a nice place to start. Theyre breaking records every year

  • Rupsub

    what is the difference between a retention plan and 3-year plan? I’m planning on getting an iPhone and am presently on a month to month. What’s the best strategy to getting a good plan? Do I start by just adding features to my present phone plan then ask for the iphone at a later time? Aren’t they more likely to not budge on offering features/add-ons if they know you want an iPhone?

  • Agree. They need to work on bringing 3G to all cities/towns! Some places are
    still on EDGE.

  • Richie


  • First off, I loathe… abhor… -hate- the fact that we pay ridiculous prices for our cell phone plans. However, I’m also (unfortunately) rational.

    Take a look at all of those countries up there. What are their populations?

    US = 10x our population
    India = Over a billion people
    Hong Kong = 6840 people/square km
    Japan = 127,360,000 (with a land area of 377,944 square km)

    All those other countries? While they may not have populations vastly larger than ours, their cell phone carriers also don’t have to worry about covering an area of about 10,000,000 square km (not that any of ours do, but still–we are the 2nd largest country in the world in terms of land mass).

    Is it any wonder that our cell phone rates are high, and why we have little to no competition here? We’re hardly of any interest to any company who wants to make money while offering us prices comparable to the rest of the world. We’re too few people spread across far too much land. Not only that, but we have a seemingly techno-phobic (or, perhaps more accurately, techno-ignorant) government (on both sides of the aisle, I might add).

  • Can you provide the real rates? Fact of the matter is we pay more compared to other countries in the world.

  • Dave

    I’ve been saying that for ever!!!!! i’ve lived in different countries and have traveled to many countries I’ve never seen cell phone rates and contracts like Canada anywhere in the world!!! we are getting ripped Off big time!! guys pleas lets do something about it I swear I would be the first one to participate. this is just unacceptable! the government should be ashamed of allowing this they clearly don’t give a F#$& about people. people work hard for their money! the problem is us accepting this Sh!% and when someone gets a so and so plan they shut up and don’t say anything.



    Guess what, Canada is a very dense country if you consider that most (%70) of the population lives in the small and dense areas of the Lower Mainland, the Calgary-Edmonton Corridor, or the Quebec-Windsor Corridor.

    You really think the Rogers and Bellus have to cover every square inch of Canada’s land mass? You think they need antennas up on Ellesmere Island???

    Second, Rogers and Bellus KNOW that wireless is the gravy train. Read up on it. Do a little research. I have, and I can tell you, they will not compete against each other on wireless because it is so damn lucrative. That’s where they make all their money.

    Any excuse of Canada being too big a country, or not having enough people is absolute BS.

  • +1

  • Half_Pint

    CRTC = Cheap, Relative To Canada.

  • Half_Pint

    3. Government overprotection

  • Chuck

    This is expensive for so little service!

  • Speedy-T

    x2 on this… that plan sucks. keep that trash to yourself!

  • Speedy-T

    I have all that for $25 + $30 for 6gb data plan….

  • SpeedyT

    now that’s a great plan!!!

  • Cali4niacanuck

    Hmmm……you wouldn’t happen to be employed by any of the “Big 3” would you now?

  • Sanyok

    You might have a point, but our big 3 still pull in the highest profit margins in the world, so the “infrastructure costs” don’t seem to slow them down at all.

  • Mike

    I’m leaving Telus soon. I want to buy a smartphone but they MAKE you buy it with a data plan. I just want a voice plan. If I want to use the internet, I can use wi-fi on the phone for free, it’s faster too. I wanted to buy a WP7 phone, but the only somewhat good phone (Samsung Focus) is exclusive to Rogers, and the make you buy a data plan ($50 is the cheapest). This is bullcrap, we have the worst selection of phones in the world, with the highest rates. It’s like our Canucks, they suck ass, have never won the Cup, and we have the most expensive tickets in the NHL. Does anyone know if it’s possible to buy and unlocked phone online and bring it over to Bell?

  • Anonymous

    Lets start a rally to restored cell phone sanity! This is absolute BS. How does this shit go on without a revolution?

  • Rupsubs

    “We’re too few people spread across far too much land.” This is the very same reason air fare within Canada is so outrageous. Canada is geographically challenged. Major Canadian cities are spread across a huge landmass. Economies of scale just don’t allow for reasonable pricing.

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  • Charliewack12

    because we allow it to……….and yes you can buy unlocked phones on ebay or kijiji…..

  • Mike A

    what are infrastructure costs are you talking about? infrastructure costs for a wirelss mobile network are a fraction (<1%) of what it costs to install a wired network. That argument does not hold true. canadians are being gouged by the government and big business.

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  • lord

    bell and telus not bellus know your facts before posting


    Shame on Canada I was a working poor Canadian in Canada. Could not afford exhorbitant cell, cable and car insurance rates . Moved to the US where these are easily affordable to most. I can believe that Canadians are so complacent and accept this.

    My son lives in Canada he has two jobs and I have to help him with bills.