Canadian Cell Service for Alaska trip

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Canadian Cell Service for Alaska trip

Postby gordonhks » Thu Jul 11, 2013 1:22 pm

We are planning for two big trips in the next two years. One is to Alaska, and the other is to the Maritimes. Both trips will require considerable time in Canada. We currently have Sprint Phones. It appears that using those in Canada will cost $.59 per minute. Is there a better voice and data solution available?
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Re: Canadian Cell Service for Alaska trip

Postby Davydd » Thu Jul 11, 2013 1:53 pm

Our solution was to pretty much go off the grid in Canada. We were still able to check our email at restaurants and other places that offered free wifi. We still were able to use our TomTom GPS on our iPad and iPhones everywhere as cellular was not needed. In Canadian RV campgrounds we found that they severely limited your data usage because the billing structure in Canada was not a flat monthly fee for campgrounds as most in the US do but a data usage fee. So uploading photos and watching YouTube were pretty much out. We quickly found out many had about a 200MB per day allowance. That eliminated any cloud computing to sync devices. We paid the charges for the few phone calls we made. I never talk on my phone unless you call me. ;) I did get one call from a former high school classmate that ran up a hefty bill. He wanted me to make a Skype/Facetime call to our 50th Reunion. That turned out to be impossible under the circumstances. Discipline! And enjoy being off the grid. I never did investigate whether there were more economical plans despite being in Canada coming and going to Alaska for at least 4 weeks. :)
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Re: Canadian Cell Service for Alaska trip

Postby markopolo » Thu Jul 11, 2013 4:04 pm

The three nationwide networks in Canada are:

Rogers Wireless (owns Rogers, Fido, Chatr)
Telus Mobility (owns Telus, Koodo)
Bell Mobility (owns Bell, Virgin, Solo, Northwestel)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Ca ... _companies

and there are numerous other virtual networks that use one of the above three companies networks.

I looked at 7-Eleven Speak Out Wireless http://www.speakout7eleven.ca/ just to see if you could do much better than your 59 cents per minute but it doesn't look like there's much saving to be had.

Initially it looks like it costs much less at 25 cents per minute (airtime) but, because every call you make in Canada and to the US will be long distance, an additional 20 cents per minute (long distance) brings the total to 45 cents per minute! Not worth doing really.

You can get long distance calls to the US for an additional 2 cents per minute (.25+.02= 27 cents) if you activate the Global Long Distance Add-On & wait for a text message containing a local access phone number.

To place a call:

1 Dial local access phone number
2 Listen for recorded message prompt.
3 Dial 011, the destination number and press the # key.

If you do not use the local access phone number while placing international calls, you will be charged a higher rate!


Have you called your network provider to see if they have any roaming add-ons?

Have you confirmed the 59 cents per minute to make sure it includes airtime and long distance?

Maybe try to find a US calling card type service that has a 1-800 access number from Canada so you get a good rate on long distance.

Then still do the math. A 100 minutes use might be the approximate break even point even with the Global Long Distance Add-On.

100 minutes @ 59 cents per minute = $59
100 minutes @ 27 cents per minute = $27 + cost of sim card or new phone

I was pretty much set to buy a US phone for US travel but in the end figured I'd just ad a roaming option and use my current phone for convenience. We don't use the phone that much.

Data is another story. For extended travel using data in the US I would buy prepaid data card (and device). I don't know if the are such devices and pre-paid data options in Canada
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Re: Canadian Cell Service for Alaska trip

Postby Rok » Thu Jul 18, 2013 2:09 am

Wow, we have a couple of trips planned to Canada. One to Banff this coming September, and another like Gordon's to the Maritimes (in July of 2014.) Plus, since Canada in only about 3 hours from us, we figured we'd take a few spur of the moment trips to B.C. This is something we'll have to figure out. We have Verizon, and we thought we'd check into it at some point. I have an international calling card. And I've bought them in Canada as well, but it is tough to find coin phones these days.

Do any Canadians know if they sell "burner phones" in Canada (the ones where you buy minutes and "burn" them up)? If so, can those phones call the U.S.? Considering the amount of time we are likely to spend in Canada, I think we need to find a better solution. Being "off grid" isn't really an option since we have some rental housing.

I guess we better find a decent solution before September.

...........Rocky
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Re: Canadian Cell Service for Alaska trip

Postby AZ ADVenturist » Thu Jul 18, 2013 3:18 pm

We too found that being off grid in BC & Yukon was no big deal. Wife recv'd couple text. I lost/hid my phone entire time. She did make calls while in Alaska ( Verizon). WiFi was limited & slow so didn't try much. Checked email @ RV park in Whitehorse. Told our rental tenants to mail rent & call a handyman if any problems. We were gone five weeks - great trip!
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Re: Canadian Cell Service for Alaska trip

Postby Mike » Thu Jul 18, 2013 4:35 pm

Rok wrote:Wow, we have a couple of trips planned to Canada. One to Banff this coming September, and another like Gordon's to the Maritimes (in July of 2014.) Plus, since Canada in only about 3 hours from us, we figured we'd take a few spur of the moment trips to B.C. This is something we'll have to figure out. We have Verizon, and we thought we'd check into it at some point. I have an international calling card. And I've bought them in Canada as well, but it is tough to find coin phones these days.

Do any Canadians know if they sell "burner phones" in Canada (the ones where you buy minutes and "burn" them up)? If so, can those phones call the U.S.? Considering the amount of time we are likely to spend in Canada, I think we need to find a better solution. Being "off grid" isn't really an option since we have some rental housing.

I guess we better find a decent solution before September.

...........Rocky


We call them "prepaid" but I think that's what you meant. You add airtime via company specific cards that you can buy all over the place, drug/convenience/grocery stores or at the actual carrier's own sticks and bricks stores. Or set up an online carrier user account, and add it via your online banking.

If you have a GSM capable phone (one that uses a removable SIM card) you can purchase just the SIM card, on a prepaid plan from a Canadian carrier, and use it in your US GSM phone. All 3 major Canadian carriers offer SIM cards, but make sure your phone works on their towers first. If your phone works on all the major North American (quad band 900/1800 and 850/1900) bandwidths, you should be OK up here, too.
The down side, as markopolo suggested, is that there's probably not much of a financial advantage to using a Canadian phone to call the US without adding an international long distance plan on your Canadian SIM card.
So, it's probably just a better (and simpler) option to consult your carrier and ask about adding a short term international roaming plan with long distance/talk/text/data while you're in Canada. I'm pretty sure it would be cheaper than dealing with our carriers. A real estate agent friend who is on Rogers, adds a short term international roaming plan to her Blackberry, and it saves her some money when she's in the USA on vacation talking to people in Canada for business. Her phone gets a lot of usage, even when she's on vacation, so it does work better for her.
When we are traveling in the US, it costs me around $2.00/minute talk, and $0.60/text to anywhere, so we keep our calls short and out texts long, and bite the bullet on the cost. Our phones don't get that much usage, except emergencies, so we feel it's our best/easiest option.
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