The following is a review of Public Mobile based on my personal experience as a subscriber in 2023. I switched from Koodo Mobile, saving $5/mo and getting 9GB more data at the same speeds and haven’t looked back!
If you own a phone outright and want to save money by switching to a low-cost, pay as you go phone plan with no lock-in and get coverage from Canada’s largest 4G network, then Public is a great choice.
And with their rewards system, you can potentially reduce your monthly bill to $0 by referring others, and helping other users in the community forums.
Plans are cheaper than 1st and 2nd tier providers, but this comes at the cost of reduced customer support options and some features (VoLTE, WiFi calling, phone subsidies, etc.).
Public Mobile went 100% digital on July 13, 2022, and your service is entirely self-managed through your online account. If you’re comfortable with other online self-serve services such as online banking, utilities, CRA my account, etc., then Public is a good fit.
As is the case for most mid-level and discount providers, customer service can be quite poor for any issues that fall outside of the capabilities of their online self-serve tools. While it might take a bit longer to solve issues via a ticketing system or chat than a phone call, it gets the job done in the end.
Get a $10 account credit when signing up using the referral code below
Public is worth it if:
- You already own your own phone outright
- 4G speed up to 100 Mbps meets your needs
- You’re techsavvy enough to manage your own account online and troubleshoot minor issues
Public is probably NOT worth it if:
- You plan to use it in the US (roaming)
- You want multiple numbers under one account and bill
- Customer Service
- Low cost, high data plans
- Loyalty is valued with points back
- Includes call display, voicemail, and conference calling
- 5G plans
- eSIM support
- Unlimited data at reduced speed on 5G plans
- No phone or in-person customer service
- Roaming service in US is limited
- Website and apps are slow
- eSIM can’t be transferred to new device
- No WiFi calling or VoLTE
What is Public Mobile?
Public Mobile is a Canadian discount prepaid “bring your own phone” mobile brand owned by Telus that offers prepaid phone plans with 5G (up to 250 Mbps), 4G (up to 100 Mbps) and 3G (up to 3 Mbps) data speeds on the Telus network, meaning their network coverage is the same as Telus.
It is a “discount” market segment provider, most similar to Lucky Mobile (Bell) and Chatr (Rogers).
It was launched in March 2010 and acquired by Telus October 2013.
Public Mobile vs Koodo
|Factor||Public Mobile||Koodo Mobile|
|Market segment||Discount/”no frills”||Mid-tier|
Both Public Mobile and Koodo are owned by Telus.
Public Mobile is a “no frills” discount provider that only has prepaid plans, doesn’t offer phones or phone support.
Koodo is a mid-tier provider that has both prepaid and post paid plans, phone subsidies and phone and in-person support.
Public Mobile features
|Parent company||Telus Corporation|
|Network access||3G, 4G throttled to 100 Mbps, 5G|
|Unlimited data||Only on 5G plans|
|VoLTE and Wi-Fi calling||No, estimated implementation Q1 2023|
|SIM||Physical SIM or eSIM|
|SIM cost||$10 (free shipping)|
|eSIM cost||$5, may be waived for new customers|
|Referral||$10 bill credit for referee, $1 per month bill credit for referrer|
Public Mobile coverage map and network
Public uses Telus’ network, which it shares with Bell through a reciprocal network sharing agreement.
Public uses Telus’ network, which is the largest 4G LTE network in Canada, covering 99% of the population, by a small margin over Bell since the two companies share the same network.
Network frequency bands
Public uses the following frequency bands:
- 4G LTE and LTE Advanced (LTE-a): 2100 MHz downlink and 1700 MHz uplink (AWS), 1900 MHz, 700 MHz, 850 MHz
- HSPA: 850 MHz and 1900 MHz (UMTS)
Public Mobile plans
All plans are prepaid and include:
- 250 MB+ of data
- Unlimited Canada-wide anytime minutes (one plan has 100 minutes)
- Unlimited messaging
- Call display
- Conference calling
- Call waiting
- Call forwarding
- Earn Public Points back each month
Public Mobile has a $39 per month plan that includes:
- 20GB of 4G data
- Unlimited Canada-wide minutes
- Unlimited international texts
- Voicemail, Call Display and Conference Calling
- Earn $1.95 per month in points (~5% back in points)
While not the best deal ever, it is seemingly available on permanent/long-term basis, meaning you won’t lose features after a limited time.
Offer: get a $10 account credit when signing up using the referral code below
Public’s 5G plans offer data speed up to 250 Mbps. After the data limit is reached, you still get unlimited data at a reduced speed of 512 Kbps. The best deal is the $45/month for 30 GB plan.
On a 90-day plan you pay for 3 months up front and you get access to all of the data for that 90 day period, giving you control of when and how you use it.
- $165 if you pay for 3 months up front (works out to $55/month) ~15% cheaper than paying monthly
Public only had 3G plans until July 13, 2022 when they went 100% digital, with all new activations and devices taking place exclusively online.
Additional data costs $5/200 MB or $15 for 1GB.
Note: You must have their SIM card before you can sign up for a plan, and the pricing of the plan you want only locks in when the card is activated.
Since plans are prepaid, there’s no such thing as overage or unexpected charges. When you’ve used up the data you purchased it just stops.
Public Mobile family plans
Public does not have family plans – it is not possible to add multiple lines to the same account and manage them under one login and monthly bill.
Each phone number must have its own account, each with its own unique username and password. They can all use the same credit card or payment method, but the charges will be separate.
Public Mobile phones
Public is primarily a bring-your-own-phone provider, but they do offer a selection of certified pre-owned phones, including at the time of writing:
- Apple iPhone 8, 11, XR, XS
- Motorola G Pure, Power
- TCL FLIP, 20 PRO 5G
- ZTE Cymbal 2, Blade A7P
- Samsung Galaxy S10, S20 FE 5G, A13
Public carries a wide range of phones, from the latest phones from Apple, Google, Motorola, TCL and Samsung, which at the time of writing, this was the iPhone 14, Plus, Pro and Pro Max, Samsung S23, S23+ and S23 Ultra and Pixel 7 and 7 Pro.
They also have affordable, mid-range phones available such as Pixel 6a, Samsung Galaxy S10, iPhone 11 and certified pre-owned phones at the time of writing.
Bringing your own device
You can bring your unlocked device to Public, all you’ll need is one of their SIM cards (also available at Telus-owned stores) or eSIMs. Most carrier-unlocked 4G/HSPA phones will work on the Public network.
Public Mobile add-ons
Public’s add-on rates and fees for calls, data and texts:
|100 Philippines long distance minutes||$15|
|1000 UK long distance minutes||$15|
|1000 US long distance minutes||$15|
|300 International long distance minutes||$15|
|500 China, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan long distance minutes||$15|
|750 India, Pakistan long distance minutes||$15|
When roaming outside of Canada, you need to purchase a roaming package in order to have service.
|US Roaming – Talk Text (15 days)||$15|
|US Roaming – Talk Text + 3GB (15 days)||$30|
|US – 250MB (15 days)||$10|
|US – 1GB (15 days)||$20|
|US – 3GB (15 days)||$25|
The addons may exist, but that doesn’t mean you’ll have service while in the US. US carriers are removing their 3G networks, so Public is using T-Mobile’s 2G network for phone calls and texts. Data is still on LTE. This will be fixed once they implement voice over LTE (VoLTE), planned for Q1 2023.
As of February 22nd, 2022, United States (U.S.) carriers have started turning down certain 3G/HSPA networks. As a result, customers using U.S. roaming add-ons will be impacted by differences in coverage or service quality (including 9-1-1 calls) when roaming in the U.S. Customers may also experience changes to services such as welcome messages, voicemail notifications, usage notifications for voice, notifications when trying to make an international call, interactive voice responses (IVR), as well as the ability to set up voicemail while in the U.S. This shutdown will not impact your service in Canada. For more information visit: U.S. Roaming
These add-ons may be convenient, but you will probably find better deals on a US-based SIM card for your travel to the US.
Public Mobile rewards
In addition to their lower phone plan prices, the Public Mobile points program offers a number of ways to earn reward points where 1 point = 1 dollar when redeemed:
- Signing up – 5 points ($5)
- Making payments – 5% back in points
- Anniversary – 10 points ($10) per 12 months
- Refer a friend – 1 point ($1) per month a friend you refer stays with Public
- Answer questions on the community forum – up to 20 points ($20) per month
The top 1% most helpful members in a month earn $15 providing by answering user’s questions and receiving thumbs up and giving thumbs up to other members’ answers.
Points can be redeemed for money off your bill, free add-ons, or the chance to win awesome prizes. Redeeming points to lower the cost of your bill can be done in increments of 15 points ($15).
While a point equals a dollar, it’s actually cheaper to buy add-ons with your reward points:
|1GB of data||$15||10|
|3GB of roaming data||$25||20|
|Unlimited U.S. Talk, Text and 3GB||$30||25|
|300 Intl. long distance minutes||$15||10|
Self serve portal
Public provides a self-serve online portal. You’re able to manage your account and perform almost all the most common functions relating to your phone plan through their website, including: account activation, managing plans and add-ons, changing your personal or payment information and more.
Their dashboard was redesigned in July 2022 and is much easier to navigate than Koodo’s.
Public Mobile has apps on the App Store and Google Play. They are poorly rated and have few downloads (only around 10,000 on Google Play at time of writing). The apps are just Public’s mobile website wrapped up in an app and are slower to load than the website, which is bit clunky to begin with.
VoLTE and WiFi calling
VoLTE and WiFi calling are available on the Telus network, but have not yet been made available to Public customers. They are expected to be made available in Q1 2023.
Call quality has been solid since I switched over from Koodo which has VoLTE. I have not had any issues with call connection or clarity.
iPhone 6 or newer, Pixel 3 or newer, as well as recent Samsung Huawei, LG, Motorola, TCL phones are capable, but these features have not yet been made available to Public customers.
Testing with SpeedTest.net and Fast.com on my Pixel 4a phone with Firefox and Chrome, Public’s 4G LTE data download speed was 50 to 93 Mbps:
Speed and signal strength may vary with your device, configuration, Internet traffic, environmental conditions, applicable network management and other factors.
While their support is all online (they do not provide assistance anywhere in-person), they do not have a customer service email address or phone number or provide social media support.
If you need help, you can:
- read through their help articles (which are reasonably thorough in my experience)
- message the SIMon chatbot for suggestions (not that helpful in my experience)
If you’re still having trouble, here’s how to message a Customer Support Agent:
How to create a ticket
Before creating a ticket, you’ll have to register for their Community Forums before creating a ticket – it’s a separate login/account from the one associated with your phone plan.
Once you have an account, go to the SIMon chatbot and immediately type in “ticket”, then click the Contact Us button. Select the relevant category – for example, “Activation” – and then click the “Click here to submit a ticket” link.
If you run into any errors or issues during activation, send a direct message (DM) to CS_Agent (PM employee) on the Public Mobile Community forums. They are available Monday to Sunday: 6 AM to 10 PM EST.
In my experience during activation, their customer service representatives were quick to respond (within 5 to 10 minutes) and were very helpful – providing backup solutions in case the first one they suggested didn’t work.
Minimal customer service is as I rarely need tweak my plans or payment method.
How to transfer to Public Mobile?
To port your existing phone number, don’t call Koodo, Lucky or whoever your current service provider is.
Instead, all you need is:
- Credit card (they accept Visa, MasterCard and American Express) or Visa Debit card for payment
- Your IMEI (dial *#06# on your phone) of your existing mobile phone or your account number of your previous service provider
Note: Only the authorized account holder can transfer a number.
The process can be done on their website or by downloading their mobile app:
1. Select a subscription plan
2. Create an account and verify your email address
2. Select eSIM or physical SIM card and wait for it to arrive
eSIMs are faster and cheaper to activate, but can only be installed using the app and cannot be transferred to another device once installed. Physical cards can take 5 to 10 business days to arrive – I received mine in 7. If you don’t want to wait for it to ship, you could get one at a Telus store or kiosk.
Note: If you’ve already purchased the physical SIM, don’t swap it yet! Leave your original/previous provider’s SIM card in so that you can receive a number transfer confirmation text message.
Next, you can check to confirm that your phone is eSIM compatible:
3. Enter your payment information and referral code 6J7W30 to get $10 credit
Enter your credit or visa debit card details and select whether you’d like to pre-authorize payments. Click submit and your account will be activated.
Paste the code 6J7W30 into the “Referral Code” field and click the add button (full disclosure: I receive $1 in bill credit if you use my code – some compensation for writing this review/guide. If you do choose to, I appreciate it – thanks!)
Enter your credit or visa debit card details and select whether you’d like to pre-authorize payments. Click submit and your account will be activated.
4. Select whether you want to bring your existing number or get a new one
You’ll be asked if you want a new phone number or to keep your old phone number, by transferring it from your current provider. Choose the “I want to bring my existing phone number with me” option.
5. If transferring your existing number, enter it
Enter your existing phone number you want to transfer over as well as the name of your service provider, account number with that provider or your phone’s IMEI and an alternative callback contact number in case there’s an issue.
5. Enter the name of your old provider, your account number with them (or IMEI)
You can dial *#06# on your phone to get your IMEI number, however, I found that when transferring from Koodo, that entering my Koodo account number worked better.
Your card will be charged and Public will submit a request to your previous provider on your behalf. You will likely receive a text message from your previous provider asking you to confirm the request that you must respond to with in 90 minutes. If you do not receive the message, you can contact them to manually release your number.
Activation error 821
Unfortunately for me, the porting process was not seamless.
It is at this point that I got error 821 – which is apparently for missing/incorrect porting information. As suggested on the Community forum, I sent a private message (DM) to CS_Agent (PM employee) via my Community forum account.
I received a response after about 15 minutes. The agent suggested that I retry:
- After clearing my cache and cookies and use Google Chrome
- Using Chrome’s incognito mode
- Entering my previous provider’s account number instead of my phone’s IMEI
and if that didn’t work, to send them all the same details that I had entered in the form (name, address, email, SIM card number, credit card number, etc).
Retrying didn’t work, so I sent them all the information they requested.
Having to re-enter all of the same details I put in the activation form on the main website into a DM chat on the community forms felt a bit weird as I thought it should be redundant (I had already submitted my info via the form) and sensitive information shouldn’t have to be pasted into the DMs of a moderator on a forum.
They responded again in under half an hour and said the transfer request to Koodo had been submitted and the plan was active on the SIM. It can take up to 2 hours to complete the transfer of a mobile phone number and account activation.
Yes, this was all a bit of a strange workaround, but only took an additional hour of mostly just waiting.
8. Reply “Yes” to the confirmation text from your previous provider
I received the following text from my previous provider Koodo, stating that I had to reply within 90 minutes to approve the transfer request:
Once you reply with “Yes”, you will lose service on your existing SIM card, indicated by the symbol at the top right of your phone and on Android, Settings > Network and Internet:
8. Swap SIM cards
Take out your old SIM card and replace it with the Public Mobile SIM.
Once the SIM and plan have been activated too (again, up to 2 hours), you should receive a welcome text message asking you to restart your phone:
Restart your phone and your service will now be active.
If you had an eSIM or have dual SIM setup, you may have to specify which card is preferred and which to use for data, calls and texts in Settings > Network and Internet > Calls and SMS and SIMs on Android.
9. Sign into your online account
Log in to your Public Mobile online account and you will receive a text with an authorization code. Enter this during the login process to pair your phone with your online account.
It certainly isn’t as easy as having a store employee do it all for you, but the process is quite streamlined, and customer support got me back on track in a reasonable timeframe when I ran into issues.
Public Mobile alternatives
- Chatr – a direct competitor owned by Rogers
- Lucky Mobile – a direct competitor owned by Bell
- Freedom Mobile – the 4th most popular network in Canada (not one of the Big 3) with solid plans and prices, but coverage outside of cities is lacking
- Koodo Mobile – a mid-level sibling brand also owned by Telus. A good option if you want the latest phone and to pay it off over the course of 24 months.
Frequently Asked Questions
Which network operator owns Public Mobile?
Public is owned by Telus Corporation.
Is Public’s network coverage good?
Yes, Public Mobile customers connect to Telus’ network, which is the largest 4G network in Canada covering 99% of Canadians. Customers get good reception almost everywhere.
Does Public have 5G?
Yes, Public offers 5G plans as of May 24, 2023.
Does Public Mobile support eSIM?
Yes, they support eSIM for new and existing customers as of August 11, 2023. However, once installed it cannot be transferred to another device, but the feature is “on their radar”.
How to buy a Public Mobile eSIM?
Can I port my number to or from Public?
Yes, you can transfer your current phone number to Public by letting them know during the sign up and activation process and giving them your phone number and account number with your current provider. They will handle the transfer by contacting your previous provider on your behalf.
To take your phone number with you when leaving Public, contact your new provider and let them know you want to transfer. Provide them with your phone number and Public account number and they will contact Public and handle the transfer on your behalf. Your account number can be found by logging in to your account, going to Profile and hovering over the eye symbol next to “Account Number” under “My Account Info”.
Can I tether my phone and create a hotspot?
Yes, you can tether your phone to create a mobile WiFi hotspot.
How to sign up for Public?
- Sign up for a Public Mobile account and verify your email address
- Check eSIM and phone compatibility (optional) using their tool
- Buy their SIM card on their website or pick one up at a Telus-branded store (store locator).
- Go to their activation page and follow the steps.
- If switching from another provider,
- Once you receive the phone and/or SIM card, insert the SIM into the phone and follow the instructions to activate.
Note: A credit check is required for all new postpaid plan customers, but not required for prepaid customers.
How to cancel Public?
Since Public plans are prepaid, all you need to do to cancel your service is:
- Disable the auto-pay feature by logging into your account and go to Payments > Manage Payment Method > toggle off
- Remove your credit card details from your account.
That’s it! Your service will be shut off automatically at the end of the current billing cycle. Service will remain in “suspended” state for 90 additional days, after which your account will be permanently deleted, and phone number will be lost.
If you port out your number, the account is immediately permanently deleted, and any remaining balance is also forfeited.
As per the CRTC’s Wireless Code, you can cancel your monthly subscription at any time by notifying your service provider. To cancel, contact Public with the date you want the cancellation to be effective. Otherwise, cancellation takes effect on the day that the service provider receives notice of the cancellation.
To contact Public or get customer support:
- Store locator (for buying SIM cards only)
- Phone number: No
- Chat: SIMon
- Messaging: Send a direct message (DM) to CS_Agent (PM employee) on the Public Mobile Community forums. They are available Monday to Sunday: 6 AM to 10 PM EST.
- Forums: Public Mobile Community
- Mailing Address: No
Public Mobile has a 3.8 rating on sitejabber and a 1.8 rating on TrustPilot and a 3.9 on PlanHub. The most common complaints are about the customer service (not being able to speak to a human), the chatbot, US roaming issues and SIM cards not arriving.
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