The Trials and Tribulations of Canadian Cell Phones
As anticipated, when I arrived in Vancouver there were a million and one things to think about, organise and sort out, which wasn’t quite the paradise that you might imagine the geek in me to jump at. The epic to-do list that I worked my way through before I left was suddenly on the increase again, so on my first full day in Canada I decided to start with a task that was small, manageable and didn’t involve a bank account or social insurance number – I got my very own Canadian mobile number.
There are a lot of mobile phone providers in Canada (way more than the UK), but a lot of these are smaller networks that run through the few national providers e.g. Chatr use Rogers. They all offer similar deals and I decided to go with Fido (owned by Rogers) as they came recommended by other BUNACers. I always thought that North America were more advanced than the UK when it came to technology, but with mobile phones I could not be more wrong.
In Canada you pay for everything. I mean everything. I signed up for a SIM only contract so I could use my unlocked and Canada compatible UK handset, which is just as well as the most basic cell phones (think pre-Snake) cost $50 and up over here. I paid $10 for my SIM card, with a $35 activation fee. I signed up for the $35 a month plan which includes unlimited worldwide text messages (useful), free evening and weekend local calls, and 350 weekday minutes. These minutes cover not only calls you make, but calls you receive as well (crazy), and only for local calls (in the Greater Vancouver area). For my first month I get free caller display and free voicemail, but after that this ‘value package’ will be added to my overall plan at an extra $10 a month. If you have an iPhone and want to actually use it, add another $25 for 500MB of data.
Phone numbers in Vancouver all begin with either 604 or 778 (there’s no differentiation between landlines and cell phones) and calls to or from other dialling codes are chargeable (35 cents a minute for me). If I move elsewhere in Canada, or go on an extended vacation outside of my dialling code, then I can contact Fido and get a new number for the duration of my trip with a dialling code local to where I’m going, which means I’ll be able to make calls in that area.
Despite the initial confusion over what services are chargeable (answer: all of them) the process was quick and easy to complete. I didn’t have to have a Canadian bank account or a Social Insurance Number, and I was able to set up online billing so I won’t get anything in the mail either. All I need to do is wait until my bank account is sorted before I start making payments…and I can even accrue $300 worth of charges before I need to make a payment (not that I will…).
As weird as the phone numbers were to get used to, I have to admit that it’s actually much easier to remember a Canadian number than it is a UK one, and giving out my 10 digit ‘cell’ number complete with Vancouver dialling code still makes me feel like I’m living in a movie…simple pleasures!