Anyone out there ever bring their cell phone to Canada?

Mr. Athena and I are going to Canada on vacation in the next few weeks. We’ll be mainly hopping around Quebec, seeing the sites and eating the food.

We’re thinking a cell phone would be handy, both for emergencies (if there are any) and also to do stuff like call ahead to make hotel reservations, etc. while we’re on the road. Problem is, I know our cell phone base plan doesn’t cover Canada. From talking to the slack-jawed idiots at Cellular One, I’m fairly certain the thing will work in Canada. However, when we asked if they could give us an idea of what we could expect to pay per minute, we get a big fat “we don’t know.”

Um, that’s not acceptable.

They were able to tell us that it’s gonna be at least 99 cents/minute, plus some other charges that the Canadian Cell phone system might charge us. They were not at all able to give us a range of costs. Mr. Athena asked “So it could be 5 cents/minute or $20/minute, you guys don’t know?” To which they replied with a cheery “Nope!”

So what are my options here? If it was going to cost me, say, $2-$3 to call ahead and reserve a room with my cell phone, I’d probably do it. However, if it’s gonna be $15/call, I’d stop and use a phone at a rest area or gas station. Mr. Athena wants to just say the hell with it and use the damn phone, but the last time we did that it ended up costing like $700 (!). So I’m a little less excited about just using the phone without some ideas of the costs involved. Can anyone help?

I have Cingular (used to be CellOne) and my phone has worked just fine in Ontario and Nova Scotia, so presumably it would work in Quebec too. It’s been a couple of years but as I recall the roaming charges weren’t any worse than for calls I’ve made from the US outside my home area.

Same here. I used my AT&T cell phone in B.C., both in Vancouver and up around Lake Okanagan.

Do you know what network standard your cellphone company uses?

We paid $1 a minute for every call we made within Ontario when we were there last year. I think we were on Cingulair at the time, but it may have still been Verizon.

No clue, Sunspace. How would I find out?

Hmmm… all this is very interesting. I hope that what the standard roaming charge is what we end up paying!


Verizon worked great for me in Nova Scotia… We were in the middle of Cape Breton Island, on the Cabot Trail, and got an unexpected incoming call from a friend. Sound quality and signal level were excellent.


I used my company cell phone when on business in BC. (ATT) I didn’t see the bill, but my boss told me about it. Boy did he tell me about it, in great detail he told me about it.
It seems that nationwide one rate long distance stops at the border, and roaming charges apply.
Anyway I found out that for $20 a month BC could be added to my plan. So now when I get ready to leave for BC I add this coverage. When I return I have it removed.

Needless to say plans are different, and YMMV

My AT&T phone worked in Toronto just fine. I didn’t even get killed on the roaming charges…of course, I had a “US and Canada” plan, so YMMV there.

Canada uses the same cellphone standards as the US, but the companies are different.

I googled " ‘Cellular One’ +Canada +roam" and the first page that came up was from a site named ‘’. I hope that isn’t typical of customer relations with that company…

Is Cellular One many companies? I got different C1 pages from various places in the States, even from Bermuda!

Here’s one from Michigan; is this your company? If so, it’s one of the least informative cellphone company pages I’ve ever seen. No info at all on where you can roam, no description of phones, nothing… If it wasn’t for mention of ‘trimode CDMA phones’ in the fine print I wouldn’t even be able to guess where you could roam.

But the same fine print seems to imply that you can’t roam outside of MI and WI.

Looks like you use CDMA, so you’d be roaming on Bell Mobility or the part of Telus in Ontario and Quebec that was formerly Clearnet.

Can you tell me what model of phone you have? That’ll go a long way towards helping me figure out where you can roam. This should be on a label somewhere on the phone, often inside the phone’s battery compartment.

If it turns out that your comany indeed offers no Canadian roaming, your best bet is to get a prepaid card and phone when you cross the border. Or change companies and get a better plan at home that includes Canadian roaming…

It’s one o’ them ubiquitous Nokia 5160 phones.

And yeah, that’s the Web page - it does suck, doesn’t it? That’s what you get when you live in the middle of nowhere, though.

Hey! the UP isn’t the middle of nowhere! (My sister lives in the Soo: it’s at least as nowhere as the UP… )

Nokia’s US page:
The 5160:
It’s a tri-band TDMA. You’d be roaming on Rogers AT&T in Canada.
An experiment: go to Sault Ste Marie and see whether you can sign on to Rogers… I’m 99% sure they have TDMA coverage in the Soo. If not, they’re sure to have analogue coverage.

So does the fact that I can roam mean that I just get charged standard roaming charges? I don’t want to get home and find that every call I made cost me $50.

It just means that your phone is capable of roaming on Rogers. Whether Cellular One of Michigan has signed a roaming agreement with Rogers is another question.

Rogers’ main page. Rogers is a conglom that has cable-tv and magazines and data networks and other stuff, as well as cellphones. They started out as the original analogue competitior to Bell in Ontario (and to the other incumbent phone companies in the other provinces). Then they set up a TDMA digital network (the same standard as your phone). Last year, they added a GSM digital network (the world standard).

Looking at their roaming page, there is a link to a list of ‘Excluded Areas’ for roaming in the US on TDMA networks. This link lists, in part:

Most of these places are in the lower part of Michigan, right? Sounds like one carrier never signed a roaming agreement. The linked page goes on to say:

It adds that you can use your Rogers phone on these networks, but you pay through the nose (more than CAD4/minute). So I’m still not sure whether your carrier signed a roaming agreement with Rogers or not. Rogers’ cellular service number: 1-800-565-6009. It assumes that you are a Rogers customer though. I called it and the CSR was unable to find out…

The Soo (Ontario) is my home town! They do indeed have that coverage. Rogers can be found on Trunk Road if you need to actually find them. (It’s rather easy to get to from the International Bridge). As for cell phone use in Canada from your company, may I suggest you try asking some college students from LSSU. I bet you that they all would have some knowledge of that, seeing as how they all came to our side to drink at 19… :slight_smile:


I just talked to Cellular One again, and got someone with a clue. She told me it was gonna cost me $3/day for a “daily access fee” for each different comany’s cell tower that I connect to. After that, it’s a 99 cent/minute roaming charge, and long distance charges on top of that.

@#@##@ Cellular One. I wish to God there was a different cell phone company I could go with, but there’s not, I’ve checked.

I think I’ll be buying a phone card and using pay phones and hotel phones in Canada. They do have phone cards in Canada, right? Those little pre-paid cards used to make phone calls?

I work for a major cell provider in Ontario that you won’t be using (a nokia 5160 is TDMA I believe) so Rogers is the only one able to support you.

For Canadians going the other way, it’s about $3 a min CAN ($1.20 roaming + $0.60 long distance in US funds).

I’d imagine expect about the same here.

Athena, you sure there’s not a GSM provider in your neck of the woods? I was thinking of NPI Wireless, but unfortunately according to GSM World, they’re LP only. There’s gotta be at least one analogue provider… unfortunately that might turn out to be Cellular One. :frowning:

My advice? If possible, get a prepaid service when you get to Quebec. Most companies have them. You can then forward your existing cellphone number to the prepaid’s number.

badmana, may I ask what provider you work for? (Email me if you want to answer that but don’t want to let the boards know…)

da UP is a vast and un-technologically-evolved place. Them there cell phone doo-dads are quite the newfangled gadget 'round here!

Seeing as we’re only going on a 2 week vacation, I think we can live without the cell phone for that long. It’ll be like taking a primative vacation, right?

Yeah! Of course, we still do have roads, but in Quebec you have to drive in French. (In Ontario, you can drive in whatever language you like. A lot of people like to drive in Italian…) :slight_smile: PS: If you’re passing through T.O. drop in and say Hi! :slight_smile: