Thursday, 4 July 2013


think the whole cellphone thing should be called planned confusion because it really is totally overwhelming. It would be much easier to choose a plan if there were fewer, more meaningful options available. To simplify things a little bit I decided to stay with plans offered by the six major providers. We know they all have service problems, but since we're aware of what the problems are we can take steps to minimize them. Also, these six have all been around long enough to provide good national coverage which, from everything I've discovered, is an major factor affecting both service and cost.

Because there is so much to cover this is a really long post, but I didn't want to skimp on any of the information.  I believe knowing what to look for and which questions to ask before signing will prevent many problems, which will in turn cut down on expense and frustration.

A cellphone plan is a legal contract and signing this, without fully understanding it, is probably the single most cause of disagreement and the reason why consumers seldom win in an argument with the provider. Before signing any contract, it’s important to read and understand the Service Terms. However, these terms are written in legalese which means not in plain English so being handed a copy while standing at the counter isn't good enough. It will be almost impossible to read and understand this document under those conditions. The better way is to print off a copy from the provider's website and really take the time to read and understand it. Any parts that aren't clear should be noted and be explained by the provider before any signing takes place. This protects the customer by letting them know exactly what they're getting and if  they're not comfortable with the contract, they simply don't sign.

The different Service Terms can be found at:

  • Service Contracts. These normally run anywhere from 1-3 years – Committed even if service proves to be less than satisfactory – Early termination of contract usually expensive. Most often a phone is included. 
  • Service Contracts with a Monthly Plan. A flat monthly rate is charged for specific services which must be clearly defined. If there is a cost for  cancelling or changing a plan, this should be known. Phone may be included.
  • Prepaid Cards and Plans. This may be a good option for the once-in-a-while cellphone user. Cards and plans have an expiry date, usually 30-90 days. In order to carry balance forward, it must be topped up before the expiry date – ask provider for details. Phone not supplied.
  • Month-to-Month Plans. A monthly rate is charged for a set amount of minutes each month. No long-term contract required. Phone not supplied
      Seniors Plan:
Rogers - $18.00 month for 100 local minutes or $100.00 pay as you go, valid for one year. Balance carried forward if topped up before expiry date.
Bell - $25.00 month for 100 local minutes or $100.00 pay as you go, valid for one year. Balance carried forward if topped up before expiry date.
      Knowing exactly what's needed in a plan makes it easier to find one that fits. Before going shopping, listing all the requirements and other nittty-gritty, like what costs to look for, makes the job much easier. 

What’s the reason for getting a cellphone?
This can range anywhere from the extreme basics where the phone is used only in case of emergencies when driving or away from home to where the phone is the main source of communication (voice, text, email, Internet access and downloads). 
How much can be comfortably spent each month? 
Is getting a phone with the plan important? This has pros and cons. Pro - its one way of getting a more expensive phone. Con - if the phone plan provider fails to deliver promised service or the phone itself doesn't measure up, it may be more difficult to resolve issues when tied in this way.
How much time is required? Rule of thumb – daily use requires 550-600 minutes per month; a few times a week requires 300-400 minutes per month; and occasional use, less than 100 minutes per month.
How much of this time will be used for: 
Voice Minutes - Will this be local or long distance? 
Text messages (Text, Picture and Video Messages) - Messages use up airtime minutes in addition to per text cost. 
Long Distance  - LD uses up airtime minutes in addition to any LD charges.
When will this time be used?
Evenings (from what time to what time).
Weekends (from what time to what time).
Data Usage -How many MB or GB is needed? Is wireless capability important?
Incoming Calls – How many can reasonably be expected? Will this include incoming text, picture and/or video messages?
Long Distance: How much and to who (family calling may be free).
Phone Features: What features are important - Voice mail, call display, call waiting, conference calling, call forwarding? (Forward calls to a landline. When you forward calls to another cellphone both phones will be charged the airtime).

When looking for a plan, many look for 'Unlimited, Included and Canada-Wide'. But what exactly does this mean?

Unlimited (not all unlimited is the same - what are the exceptions?):
Data - when is unlimited not unlimited – have this explained in detail (example - tethering).
Incoming Calls – Does this apply to incoming calls originating outside coverage area?.
Unlimited Calling Canada-Wide -Needs to be explained in detail - not everywhere in Canada is covered by all the providers.
Included: What is included and for how long? If this is a promotion, certain things may be included for a short time, for instance, nationwide family calling may be offered free for three months, but after that it will cost extra. - Get the details in writing.
Canada Wide: Clear map of coverage area required.
Under what conditions do exceptions apply to any of the above.
All of the above features should be included in the plan cost, but to avoid surprises, get the answers before signing.

Hidden or Other Costs.
First Month Cost - What's the first month's amount to be paid -What is included - Itemize.
      Activation Fee - Is there a charge and how much?
Monthly Bill - What costs are added each month (911 service, taxes, regulatory fees, anything else) so the exact amount of the monthly withdrawal is known. Is there a possibility of additional charges showing up on occassion?
Termination - What's the procedure and how much will this cost? How about early termination?
Coverage Area - This needs to be clearly defined and, if this is a national plan, 'national' must also be defined, otherwise expensive roaming charges could be applied.

The following costs should also be checked out before signing:
Overage Cost - Additional minute rate
Overage Cost - Additional data rate
USA roaming costs – minutes 
USA roaming costs – data
Directory Assistance - 411
Voicemail - need details - under some circumstances there could be a charge for this.
Call Display – need details - under some circumstances there could be a charge for this.
All other costs - described in detail.

Plan Considerations:
Term - Which plan works best - Pay as you go, A monthly Plan or an Extended Term Contract.
The no-contract plan is of course the easiest to terminate but may not offer everything that's required.
Monthly Fees - Compare all the plans to find one that best matches your budget. Its no fun being overextended each month.
What's Included - If you're a travelling business person, you obviously need more inclusions than the stay-at-home grandma. 

Once all the needs have been listed, its time to match the requirements to a plan. A good starting point for this is to go to Another place to check are the websites for the different plan providers.

Once one or two plans have been decided on and you sort of know what you want, its time to go shopping to confirm your answers, clarify anything not understood and check out the service. Before signing with anyone, remember, you're signing a legal document (which protects the provider) where everything is listed and written down. Protect yourself the same way - by getting all your answers in writing and signed by the provider.

As mentioned last week, I feel its important to visit a local supplier to get a feel for the kind of service you could expect to get during and after the sale. Receiving friendly, courteous service while asking a bunch of questions is a good test of what can be expected. Receiving anything less means you need to go somewhere else. 

ROAMING: The high cost of roaming was mentioned a lot and since I had no idea what roaming meant I looked it up at and found out that 'cellphone roaming charges are fees paid by cellphone users when they use their phones outside their home service area as the carrier determines it." These roaming charges are added to the regular plan's costs and are usually higher than costs outlined in the plan. It is possible for customers to be charged for calls routed to them in a foreign country while their phones are turned off. When a customer turns on his device in another country, the local carrier will register the device on its network. This means that even if the customer keeps his phone turned off or chooses not to answer calls, the customer's home carrier will still route to the local carrier who then forwards the calls back to the home carrier. The local carrier charges to route calls. If the caller leaves voice mail messages (or emails), the customer pays. For this reason, it’s important to know the plan's coverage area. Don't just accept nationwide, but have nationwide clearly defined. It’s also important to know what to do when traveling outside the coverage area - has further information on what to do to avoid roaming costs.

I'm not a big cellphone user and really just like to have it with me when I'm driving in case something happens. I've had a $100.00 pay as you go plan with Rogers for the past 6 years with absolutely no hassle. Because I don't use the phone very much and have it topped up before the expiry date, the balance keeps growing. Last November I had a balance of $387.00 and received a nice letter from Rogers suggesting I use $100.00 from the balance to pay this year's fee, which I did, so this year I am using my phone for free. At this point I still show a balance of $172.42.

This whole cellphone project started because I had thought I would like a voice and data plan, but after all the research I realize I have exactly what I need so I'm sticking with what I have.  I'll use my computer for emails and any other Internet use. All I need to do now is buy a phone and I'll talk about that next week.

So there you have it. A lot of reading, a lot of questions to be answered, but hopefully it will all be worth it by helping identify a plan that meets all the needs at a reasonable cost and in a way that prevents most provider service problems. 

What follows are examples of different plans. I'm not recommending these plans - I just wanted to show examples of very different plans like the very simple Text and Talk Plans vs. the more inclusive Talk, Text and Internet Plans.

       Comparison  - Text & Talk Plans – Koodo, Fido, Virgin Mobile
Monthly Fees
Koodo - $35.00
Fido - $35.00
Virgin Mobile - $35.00
Anytime Minutes
Text, Picture & Video Messages
From Canada to Canadian, US, and Int’l wireless numbers



Canada & US Text
Unlimited sent from Canada
Evenings and Weekends ²

Weekends 5pm Fri. to 8am Monday

Weekends 6pm Fri. to 7am Monday
Weekends 7pm Friday
to 7am Monday
Incoming Calls
Call Display & VoiceMail
Canada-Wide Long Distance
Canada-Wide Family Calling

Circle Calling
Local Calls Between Subscribers on the Same Account


First Month Fees – Other Fees
Coverage areas need to be clearly defined or this could become a problem.
Roaming Charges – When and how much
Cancellation Fee

      Comparison - Talk, Text and Internet Plans – Telus, Rogers, Bell
Monthly Fees
TELUS  $60.00
ROGERS  $60.00
  BELL  $60.00

Promo Voice & Data 60
Talk, Text & Internet 500MB

Voice & Data  60
Monthly, 1,2, or 3 yr.

Monthly, 2 or 3-year
Monthly, 1,2, or 3 yr.
First Month Costs
Anytime Minutes Included
1000 Local Minutes
Unlimited Nationwide Family Calling.
1000 Local
Change to nationwide for + $10.00/month
1000 Local Minutes
Change to nationwide for + $10.00/month
Evenings and Weekends
6pm -7am
Additional Airtime Rate
Data Included
500MB  Shared
Additional Data Usage Rate
2cents per MB
$15 per 500MB
$15 per 500MB

Overage $15/500MB
Unlimited access at participating locations
Text, Picture & Video Messaging
Call Display, Call Waiting, Conference Calling

+Enhanced Voicemail
+Message Centre Lite
Activation Fee
Not stated
One time – up to $35. Varies by Province
One time - $35.00
*First bill may vary from this. The amount shown includes initial setup cost…plus one FULL month’s service fees (which will be pro-rated depending on your billing cycle). First bill will also include any airtime usage and 911 Emergency Service Access Provincial Fee may apply.
Define Canada – Wide Coverage
Roaming Charges – Canada, USA, International – Cost & When do they apply.
Early Cancellation Fee – How much and how is this handled?
911 Emergency Service Access Fee – Provincial Fee may apply
411 Directory Assistance Fee - $2.49 or $2.50 per call plus airtime

No comments :

Post a Comment

I want this blog to be interesting, informative and current. Your comments let me know if I'm on track, so comments are greatly appreciated.
Thanks - Lenie