One of the most important things you need to know before you move to or visit Canada is whether or not your cell phone will work with Canadian mobile networks, as our networks are different than the rest of the world in some cases.
To prevent you from becoming out of touch with your family, friends or coworkers, we have put together this guide on the frequency bands Canadian carriers use. This will help you prepare for your trip and decide whether to bring your own phone and get a SIM card while in Canada or buy a new phone.
Will my phone work with Canadian networks?
To work in Canada, your phone:
- Must be unlocked (if it is locked, see: How to Unlock Your Phone in Canada)
- Must be compatible with the protocols and frequency bands used by Canadian carriers (see below)
- Must have a SIM card from a Canadian carrier that has been activated
- Must not be reported lost or stolen. If you’re concerned, you can check the status here.
For a quick compatibility check, check out Will My Phone Work:
Some providers also provide their own compatibility checking tools:
For a more in-depth, precise confirmation that your phone is compatible, here’s how to find exactly what protocols and frequencies your phone supports:
1. Find the International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) number
You should be to track down the model number and IMEI from your phone’s settings or owner’s manual:
- Android: Settings > Wireless & Networks > More > Cellullar networks or Settings > About phone > Status
- Apple: Settings > General and tap About
- Dial *#06# on your phone
- From the manufacturer’s website: Apple, Samsung
2. Use the IMEI to get the frequency bands
Visit www.imei.info and enter the IMEI of your phone. The results should show the frequency bands it supports.
3. Compare to Canadian carriers
Compare the bands your phone is compatible with to those supported by Canadian carriers listed in the tables below.
Mobile phone network technologies in Canada
The compatibility with a mobile network is determined by the phone’s operating frequency bands and protocols/standards, the frequencies and standards supported by the provider and your proximity to the provider’s service territory. These factors determine the accessibility of a mobile network and greatly affect the speed at which data is sent and received.
For example, to access the LTE network, you’ll need an LTE-compatible device, a LTE SIM card from a service provider that supports LTE and be in a region where they provide LTE coverage.
Standard & protocols in use in Canada
|Standard/Protocol||Stands for||Generation||Max Speed (Down, Up) Mbps||Typical Speed (Bell)||Status|
|HSPA||High Speed Packet Access||3.5G||14, 5.76||3.5 to 14||In use|
|HSPA+||Evolved HSPA||3.75G||56, 22||3.5 to 14||In use|
|CDMA||Code-division multiple access||2G||0.153||Discontinued|
|GSM||Global System for Mobile Communications||2G||.04 to .384||Phasing out|
|LTE||Long Term Evolution||4G||100, 50||12 to 40||In use|
|LTE-A||LTE Advanced||4G||1000, 500||25 to 220||In use|
|5G NR||New Radio||5G||1000 to 2000||Available 2020-2021|
Protocols used by each network operator in Canada
In Canada, 2G and 3G phone technologies using GSM and CDMA frequency bands are being phased out. All carriers serving the provinces have shut down support for GSM, with the exception of Rogers Wireless which will end support effective December 31, 2020. Major mobile network carriers such as Telus and Bell discontinued their support of CDMA networks in 2017 and 2019 respectively.
|BCE Inc.||Bell Mobility, Lucky Mobile, Virgin Mobile, Bell MTS||LTE: 97%, HSPA+: 98%||No||Yes||Yes|
|Rogers Communications||Rogers Wireless, Chatr Mobile, Fido Mobile, Cityfone, Primus Wireless, SimplyConnect, Zoomer Wireless||LTE: 96%, HSPA+: 98%, GSM: 97%||Shut down Dec 31, 2020||Yes||Yes|
|Telus Corporation||Telus Mobility, Koodo Mobile, Public Mobile||LTE: 97%, HSPA+: 98%||No||Yes||Yes|
|Eastlink||Eastlink Wireless||Atlantic Canada and Northeastern Ontario||No||Yes||Yes|
|Shaw Communications||Freedom Mobile||LTE: Toronto, Ottawa, London, Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver, HSPA+: 98%||No||Yes||Yes|
|Iristel||Ice Wireless||Northwest Territories, Nunavut, Yukon||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Keewaytinook Okimakanak||K-Net Mobile||Northern Ontario||Yes||No||No|
|SaskTel||SaskTel Mobility||LTE/ HSPA+ (Saskatchewan): 99%||No||Yes||Yes|
|SSi Micro||SSi Mobile/Qiniq||Northwest Territories, Nunavut||Yes||No||Yes|
|TNW Networks||TNW Wireless||Northwestern British Columbia and Yukon||Yes||Yes||No|
|Québecor||Vidéotron Mobile, Fizz Mobile||Québec and Ottawa||No||Yes||Yes|
|Xplornet||Xplore Mobile||Rural areas in all provinces||No||No||Yes|
Frequencies used by Canadian carriers
The following are the frequency bands used by each mobile network operator:
|Bell Mobility||850 CLR||5||UMTS/HSDPA/HSPA+/DC-HSPA+||3.5G||Active||Fallback for calls and HSPA+ data.||Source|
|Bell Mobility||1900 PCS||2||UMTS/HSDPA/HSPA+/DC-HSPA+||3.5G||Active||Fallback for calls and HSPA+ data.||Source|
|Bell Mobility||850 CLR||5||LTE||4G||Active / Being deployed||Used for extra bandwidth within cities and rural coverage. Re-farmed from Decommissioning CDMA network across the country. Also re-farmed from 850 MHz UMTS network in some areas.||Source|
|Bell Mobility||1900 PCS||2||LTE / LTE Advanced||4G||Active / Being deployed||Secondary LTE Band being deployed and used for LTE / LTE Advanced coverage. Re-farmed from Decommissioning CDMA network. Also re-farmed from 1,900 MHz UMTS network in some areas.||Source|
|Bell Mobility||700 A/B/C/Upper C1-2/D/E||12/17/13/29||LTE / LTE Advanced||4G||Active / Being deployed||Mainly used in rural areas / rural coverage. Also used to provide Dual or Tri-band LTE Advanced coverage within city limits.||Source|
|Bell Mobility||1700/2100 AWS||4||LTE / LTE Advanced||4G||Active||Main LTE Band used across the country. Also being used to provide LTE Advanced coverage.||Source|
|Bell Mobility||2600 IMT-E||7||LTE / LTE Advanced||4G||Active / Being deployed||Found in select markets, but being developed slowly in new markets alongside to provide LTE Advanced coverage.||Source|
|Rogers Wireless||850 CLR||5||GSM/GPRS/EDGE||2G||Active||Source|
|Rogers Wireless||1900 PCS||2||GSM/GPRS/EDGE||2G||Active||Source|
|Rogers Wireless||850 CLR||5||UMTS/HSPA+||3G||Active||Source|
|Rogers Wireless||1900 PCS||2||UMTS/HSPA+||3G||Active||Source|
|Rogers Wireless||700 Lower A/B/C||12/17/13||LTE / LTE Advanced||4G||Active||Additional LTE band for building penetration and rural coverage in select markets. Also being used to provide LTE Advanced coverage.||Source|
|Rogers Wireless||850 CLR||5||LTE / LTE Advanced||4G||Active||Used to provide LTE Advanced coverage in select markets.||Source|
|Rogers Wireless||1700/2100 AWS||4||LTE / LTE Advanced||4G||Active||Main LTE band providing complete coverage. Also being used to provide LTE Advanced coverage.||Source|
|Rogers Wireless||2600 IMT-E||7||LTE / LTE Advanced||4G||Active||Additional LTE band for more bandwidth in select markets. Also used to provide LTE Advanced coverage in select markets.||Source|
|Rogers Wireless||1900 PCS||2||LTE / LTE Advanced||4G||Active||Used to provide LTE Advanced coverage in select markets.||Source|
|Rogers Wireless||2600 IMT-E||n38||NR||5G||Active / Being Deployed||Source|
|Rogers Wireless||600 DD||n71||NR||5G||To be deployed in late 2020||Pending Deployment||Source|
|Telus Mobility||850 CLR||5||UMTS/HSDPA/HSPA+/DC-HSPA+||3.5G||Active||Fallback for calls & 3G data.||Source|
|Telus Mobility||1900 PCS||2||UMTS/HSDPA/HSPA+/DC-HSPA+||3.5G||Active||Fallback for calls & 3G data.||Source|
|Telus Mobility||850 CLR||5||LTE||4G||Active / Being deployed||Used for extra bandwidth within cities and rural coverage.||Source|
|Telus Mobility||1900 PCS||2||LTE / LTE Advanced||4G||Active / Being deployed||Secondary LTE Band being deployed and used for LTE / LTE Advanced coverage.||Source|
|Telus Mobility||700 A/B/C/E||12/13/17/29||LTE / LTE Advanced||4G||Active / Being deployed||Mainly used in rural areas / rural coverage.||Source|
|Telus Mobility||1700/2100 AWS||4||LTE / LTE Advanced||4G||Active||Main LTE Band used across the country. Also being used to provide LTE Advanced coverage.||Source|
|Telus Mobility||2600 IMT-E||7||LTE / LTE Advanced||4G||Active / Being deployed||Found in select markets, but being developed slowly in new markets alongside to provide LTE Advanced coverage.||Source|
|SSi Mobility (Qiniq)||1900 PCS||2||GSM/GPRS/EDGE||2G||Active||Source|
|SSi Mobility (Qiniq)||2600 IMT-E||7||LTE / LTE Advanced||4G||Active||Source|
|Eastlink||1700/2100 AWS A–F||4||UMTS||3G||Active||Source|
|Eastlink||700 MHz Lower A/B/C||12/17||LTE||4G||Active||Source|
|Videotron||1700/2100 AWS A–F||4||UMTS||3G||Active||Source|
|SaskTel||1700/2100 AWS A–F||4||UMTS||3G||Active||Source|
|Freedom Mobile||600 E/F/G FDD||71||LTE||4G||Pending Development||Acquired in a 2019 auction.||Source|
|Freedom Mobile||700 C||13||LTE||4G||Active/Being Deployed||Additional LTE band with better signal propagation to provide better indoor service and fill gaps in network coverage. Acquired from Quebecor. (Restricted to devices that Freedom sells, or that come from Samsung, Google, LG, Moto or Apple on BYOD subject to specific models in the Compatibility Matrix)||Source|
|Freedom Mobile||1,700||4||UMTS/HSDPA/HSPA+/DC-HSPA+/LTE||3G/4G||Active||(3G) Main band for providing 3G UMTS Voice & Data services. (LTE) Secondary band that provides LTE for legacy devices.||Source|
|Freedom Mobile||1,700||66||LTE||4G||Active||Primary band used for LTE service in all regions, excluding Eastern Ontario.||Source|
|Freedom Mobile||2,600||7||LTE||4G||Active||Primary band for LTE compatible with legacy devices, excluding Eastern Ontario. Acquired from Quebecor.||Source|
|Freedom Mobile||2,500||41||LTE||4G||Pending Development||Additional band for LTE in select regions of Western Canada. Acquired in residual spectrum auction.||Source|
|Fizz Mobile||1700/2100 AWS||4||LTE / LTE Advanced||4G||Active||Source|
|Ice Wireless||850 CLR||5||UMTS/HSDPA/HSPA+/DC-HSPA+||3.5G||Active||Source|
|Ice Wireless||1900 PCS||2||UMTS/HSDPA/HSPA+/DC-HSPA+||3.5G||Active||Source|
- Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM)
- Code-division multiple access (CDMA)
- Universal Mobile Telecommunications System (UMTS)
- Advanced Wireless Services (AWS)
- Personal Communications Service (PCS)
Where to bring your own phone (BYOP) and buy a SIM card in Canada
SIM cards can be purchased at the airport (at inflated prices), at carrier kiosks in malls and shopping centers as well as online directly from carriers. The major carriers are Bell, Rogers and Telus, but cheaper options are often available through their discount brands such as Public Mobile, Koodo, Chatr, Fido and Freedom Mobile.
With your unlocked device, simply purchase a SIM card from one of the carriers above. You should be able to get one for around CAD $10 and setting it up should be straightforward.
You may want to consider ordering a SIM card online before you leave and have it delivered to a Canadian address. While this may seem convenient, this option can quickly become inconvenient if the delivery time doesn’t line up well with when you arrive in Canada.
To activate the SIM card, contact the carrier you purchased it from or visit one of their stores. Once activated, insert it into your phone and follow the carrier’s activation instructions.
A SIM card from Telus costs CAD $20, CAD $10 from Rogers, Lucky Mobile and Chatr and $0 from Virgin Mobile and Koodo. The cost of the SIM card itself is consistent and not a good indication of the value of the plans offered by the provider.
Canada is known to have some of the highest phone plan prices in the world. Based on our comparison of the best prepaid cell phone plans in Canada, a BYOP phone plan from a discount provider with 5GB of data and unlimited Canada-wide minutes and texting costs between CAD $40 and $50.
Pay-per-use and calls to the US range from $0.40 to $0.60 per minute.
Postpaid or prepaid?
In Canada, you can choose between prepaid and postpaid service. The service provided by both options is the same, the only differences are when you pay and the rates you pay. For prepaid service also known as pay-per-use, payment is made up front for a specific amount of service ie. number of minutes, texts or GB of data. When you run out, you must top-up your account.
For postpaid services, customers sign up for a plan that has a specific package of services that renew monthly. They get a bill with the same charges (unless they incur overage charges by exceeding the allotted limits) at the end of each month, whether or not they used all the minutes/data available to them.
What to read next
- List of All Canadian Cell Phone Carriers
- Best Prepaid Cell Phone Plans in Canada
- Canadian cell towers map
- 5G Availability in Canada
Over to you
What phone do you have? Where are you coming from and where in Canada are you planning to travel to? Let us know in the comments below!