Mobile Companies In Toronto – Where Does Your Money Go?

Choices, choices, choices. The landscape of phone service carriers has changed enormously over the last year. Over the time you read this article, the landscape will likely change again. This information is current as of September 2010. Thanks to a great deal of competition and a number of new carriers on the market – we have choices. Lots of Choices! I decided to give you an idea of which company owns which brand. See the infographic at left for more!

In the vast array of deals, sales, promotions and rebates from cell carriers – I think I’ve seen it all. Previously I talked about switching a Blackberry to Google Apps, Running Android on a Netbook, and even using an unlocked phone. I have had most of the major phones and used most of the major technologies and service providers. I continue to look for new an interesting mobile technology to get more first-hand knowledge.But, looking at the companies that provide cell phone services in Toronto, It’s easy to get confused with the large number of handsets, phones and services. Go to any mall, you’ll see kiosks, booths, and stores for carriers and even stores that carry multiple companies’ phones such as The Telephone Booth. What to do? What to do?

The Big Guys

Let’s face it – the cell phone market is generally controlled by three “big” guys. These three companies not only have cell carriers, but they also have a “low cost” branches to cater to the low-end markets.

Rogers Communications Inc. – Rogers has some 40% of the wireless market in Canada and at one time was the exclusive carrier of the Apple iPhone in Canada. Rogers is based in Toronto, ON and operates all over Canada.
Pre-Paid Brand – FIDO, and its parent company Rogers offer phones that use the GSM standard of cell service. Fido was the first carrier in Canada to offer phones on the GSM network when they opened. When you see marketing materials for Fido, they don’t normally show or disclose a link to Rogers as a parent company.
New Brand: Chatr. Recently opened, Chatr is a low-end brand that sells phones without contracts, offers voice-only and pre-paid plans (at the moment). Chatr looks to compete directly with the likes of Mobilicty and WIND mobile.

Bell Mobility – The second largest of the Canadian carriers. They offer the network standards such as the (older) CDMA and the newer HSPA. Bell has undergone a number of changes recently, including a logo change and the removal of “mobility” moniker. Also, keep in mind, Bell is investing heavily in HSPA, so you should NOT invest in any phone using CDMA if you wish to have portability with other carriers. CDMA phones are those that do not use SIM Cards.

Pre-Paid Brand: Solo Mobile – Bell’s low-cost branch generally uses the same technology and the same network as bell. You’ll find pre-paid plans and 2 years terms at this outfit.

Low End Brand: Virgin Mobile (website) which started in Canada as a prepaid service to ultimately start offering post-paid services later. Virgin Mobile was then purchased by Bell Canada and the Virgin name licensed as well.

Telus Mobility – Based in Burnaby, British Columbia, Telus Mobility is a large Western Canada  carrier that expanded through Eastern Canada by way of acquiring Clearnet some time ago. Clearnet was known for the “Mike” phones that offered two-way radio communications (much like a walkie-talkie.

Low Cost Brand: Koodo Mobile (website) offers phones without contracts and a “Tab” feature that allows the customer to build credit towards a new phone. Koodo offers a limited phone selection and up until recently did not offer any smartphones.

The NEW Guys

WIND is the largest and older of the new crop of cell carriers. They are based in Toronto and owned by a company named Globalive. Launched in 2009, WIND uses the HSPA and AWS (the first in Canada) technologies. WIND’s services are based in large urban centers in Canada.

Public Mobile offers primary CDMA services in the Toronto and Montreal area right now. They offer a limited number of phones and plans based on the technology in use. One note about Public is that they currently have no roaming agreement, so when you are out of the coverage range, there is no service. Public is run out of their Montreal offices.

Mobilicity, once named DAVE Wireless is a new company based out of Toronto. They offer a number of basic plans and decent coverage by way of sharing cell towers with Rogers. Using AWS technology (similar to WIND), Mobilicity currently has a stable of 6 phones as well as a mobile Internet device.

So, the question is: Where is your money going? If you get a phone and plan from Virgin Mobile today – you are essentially getting a phone from Bell Mobility. It’s just wrapped in a different name.

Presently, I use an T-Mobile G1 (called The HTC Dream here in Canada) that I purchased, unlocked, for $120 used. This phone is currently running Android version 2.2 (FroYo) and runs on the WIND Mobile network using their Always Shout and Infinite data plans.


Communications Monitoring Report – Wireless,  2009 – CRTC
Why the wireless war is good for you – The Globe and Mail
List of Canadian mobile phone companies – Wikipedia
J.D. Power and Associates Reports on Satisfaction:  J.D. Power