Qs about cell phones--SIM cards, Fido, Canada

Ok, so I’m moving to Canada for 8 months. I have a cell phone, but I’m not “savvy”-- these things are still a mystery to me.
The phone I have is GSM 900 compatible or whatever-- cheap Samsung sgh r225 I got when I signed up with T-mobil. It has a SIM card, which I can physically take out and put back in. In the “settings” menu it says “SIM lock: disabled”. Does this mean I can sign up for a second service in Canada, say, and just switch out the cards in the phone when I need to, or am I missing something vitally important? Is there a catch here? Is a “SIM unlocked” phone something else? I think I told the person at the T-Mobile store that I might travel to Europe-- might she have set it up for use in this manner, or am I dreaming?
Also, any of you Canadians use Fido for service? What do you think (they have cheap long distance and roaming)?

I dont know if this will help but this is what I found when using phones in Canada.

Mines a Nokia 7210 and when I went to Canada, I basically bought a Rogers Sim Card I was able to ring Rogers and have them activate my phone so it would work on there network, I had to give them the number of the phone. Its the number thats under the barcode on the phone, or it could be near where your sim card goes. The simcard cost about $22 and like in the UK/Ireland I was able to buy credit online and use it like I would at home.

My phone was bought sim free though, so it wasnt tied to a network so it wasnt a problem, but I dont think it matters, two friends of mine were on the vodafone network and they were able to do the same. Also, its not nearly as easy to get credit in Canada as it is to get in the UK, the only place I ever found it was in Radio Shack, so topping up online was easiest. I think most used bill phones.

Oh and I was able to use my Irish simcard too, just had to have international roaming enabled.

Hope that helps!

I forgot, the phone has to be a triband phone to pick up the foreign networks.

I think anyway, thats what I was told, my phone is a triband so I didnt need to worry about it, if you still have the manual it should say it in there.

I dropped Fido because the reception was dreadful-nothing in downtown Vancouver until I got away from the highrises, minimal reception elsewhere. YMMV of course

I use Fido and I’m happy enough with the service, though their coverage outside of urban areas is reportedly lousy. I don’t have any personal experience with that though, since I don’t have a car and I’m just as happy staying in the city anyway.

I’m guessing you’re asking about Fido since they seem to have some arrangement with T-Mobile? The ferry between Victoria and Vancouver passes briefly through US waters, and last time I took it I was somewhat amused to receive a text message from T-Mobile welcoming me to the US and explaining the wonders of 411. I am, however, also awaiting my next phone bill to find out just how much they charged me for the privilege of receiving that particular text.

What exactly do you mean by a triband phone? Mine doesn’t have a sim card, so I won’t be able to use it in the UK anyway, but I don’t know what this means.

Mobile phones use radio to communicate with the mobile-phone system. “Triband” means the phone can work on three sets of radio frequencies.

Canada and the US use the same systems and radio frequencies for mobile phones, so if you’re coming from the US to Canada, differences between the two countries aren’t a problem.

Differences between phone companies are, however: both Canada and the USA allow several different technical standards for mobile phones. Thus it is often impossible to move your phone service from one competing company to another in the same area and use the same phone, even though you can move your service into another country just by walking across the border.

Despite the difficulties in transferring phones to competitors, many phone companies ‘lock’ their phones anyway. They then feel free to sell them at a serious discount and attract more customers.

This is how you get those ads for a $25 phone. The phone really cost something like $300, but the phone company knows that the you aren’t going anywhere, and so you can make up the subsidy over time with your monthly payments for service. You can’t use the phone anywhere but on the seller’s network, and on those networks the seller has negotiated an (often expensice) roaming agreement with.

The phone systems of T-Mobile, Rogers, and Fido use the technical standard known as GSM. Phones from one company are capable of operating on the others’ systems.

GSM phones store the customer’s information (phone number, etc) on a SIM card; which gives them greater flexibility. You can get a new phone and just put your existing SIM in it and away you go. This capability was built into the GSM system from the start.

At the insistence of the phone companies, they also built a capability to lock the SIM to the phone network (or even the individual phone) into the GSM standard. This allowed the phone companies to offer cheap subsidised phones as described above.

Unfortunately, GSM phone sellers in North America were less than clear about these locks. Often, they would not sell unsubsidised unlocked phones to customers who wanted to take advantage of the full flexibility of the GSM standard, even though those customers were willing to pay full price for the phone.

Lok, GSM (and other mobile-phome systems) use different frequencies in Canada/the USA than in most other parts of the world. Triband and quadband capability becomes important when you go to other countries (especially Europe). This is what Delly was describing.

The link describes frequencies used by GSM phones. Phones on other North American technical standards aren’t as flexible and can’t as often be used outside North America–not nearly as many places outside Canada and the USA use the other North American technical standards as use GSM.

capybara, if your phone works in the US, it will work in Canada. If it is unlocked, you should be able to do just that: get a Canadian prepaid SIM and stick it in your phone and use it. This will be cheaper than roaming using your existing US account. You will get a different phone number though.

Rogers and Fido used to be competitors in Canada, with completely-separate networks. But Fido was IMHO underfunded, and, even though it was the first GSM system in Canada (starting in 1997), it never spread much beyond some of the larger urban areas.

Rogers started as the original cellphone competitor to Bell and the other old traditional phone companies back in the eighties (a long story), and has long had a vast mobile-phone network covering much of the country. They were able to convert much of that network to GSM during the 1990s, and started to eat Fido’s lunch in competition because of their much larger GSM coverage.

Eventually Rogers bought Fido and began to merge their networks. This is still going on. Net result: Fido customers, like myself, suddenly got much larger coverage. Rogers eliminated their only GSM competitor (the other cellphone companies in Canada use different technical standards).

Great, thanks for all the information, everyone. Yeah, I’ve heard about this “Fido City” thing, where I guess they use Rogers’ old networks or something in Vancouver, Ottawa, Montreal, and since I’ll be in Vancouver and not much anywhere else perhaps it will work ok.
I’ll check into landline prices, too-- not sure which way I should jump.
Thanks again.

Fido City was a special plan where you could use your Fido cellphone similarly to a local landline phone, with unlimited local airtime withinn certain geographical limits. I think. It was intended to compete with landline service anyways, and was I suspect aimed at the sort of people who would have high-speed internet and a cellphone and were wondering why they really needed an additional landline.

It wasn’t anything unusual in the way it used Fido’s network, AFAIK.

I’m not sure what happened to it after Rogers bought Fido.