Will My Phone Work in Canada?


Sarah Adedun

Last Updated:

Tech

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/ProtocolStands forGenerationMax Speed (Down, Up) MbpsTypical Speed (Bell)Status
HSPAHigh Speed Packet Access3.5G14, 5.763.5 to 14In use
HSPA+Evolved HSPA3.75G56, 223.5 to 14In use
CDMACode-division multiple access2G0.153Discontinued
GSMGlobal System for Mobile Communications2G.04 to .384Phasing out
LTELong Term Evolution4G100, 5012 to 40In use
LTE-ALTE Advanced4G1000, 50025 to 220In use
5G NRNew Radio5G1000 to 2000Available 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. 

Parent CompanyBrandsCoverageGSMHSPA+LTE
BCE Inc.Bell Mobility, Lucky Mobile, Virgin Mobile, Bell MTSLTE: 97%, HSPA+: 98%NoYesYes
Rogers CommunicationsRogers Wireless, Chatr Mobile, Fido Mobile, Cityfone, Primus Wireless, SimplyConnect, Zoomer WirelessLTE: 96%, HSPA+: 98%, GSM: 97%Shut down Dec 31, 2020YesYes
Telus CorporationTelus Mobility, Koodo Mobile, Public MobileLTE: 97%, HSPA+: 98%NoYesYes
EastlinkEastlink WirelessAtlantic Canada and Northeastern OntarioNoYesYes
Shaw CommunicationsFreedom MobileLTE: Toronto, Ottawa, London, Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver, HSPA+: 98%NoYesYes
IristelIce WirelessNorthwest Territories, Nunavut, YukonYesYesYes
Keewaytinook OkimakanakK-Net MobileNorthern OntarioYesNoNo
SaskTelSaskTel MobilityLTE/ HSPA+ (Saskatchewan): 99%NoYesYes
SogetelSogetelQuebecNoYesYes
SSi MicroSSi Mobile/QiniqNorthwest Territories, NunavutYesNoYes
TbaytelTbaytelNorthwestern OntarioNoYesYes
TNW NetworksTNW WirelessNorthwestern British Columbia and YukonYesYesNo
QuébecorVidéotron Mobile, Fizz MobileQuébec and OttawaNoYesYes
XplornetXplore MobileRural areas in all provincesNoNoYes

Frequencies used by Canadian carriers

The following are the frequency bands used by each mobile network operator:

BrandsFrequency (MHz)BandProtocolClassStatusDescriptionReference
Bell Mobility850 CLR5UMTS/HSDPA/HSPA+/DC-HSPA+3.5GActiveFallback for calls and HSPA+ data.Source
Bell Mobility1900 PCS2UMTS/HSDPA/HSPA+/DC-HSPA+3.5GActiveFallback for calls and HSPA+ data.Source
Bell Mobility850 CLR5LTE4GActive / Being deployedUsed 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 Mobility1900 PCS2LTE / LTE Advanced4GActive / Being deployedSecondary 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 Mobility700 A/B/C/Upper C1-2/D/E12/17/13/29LTE / LTE Advanced4GActive / Being deployedMainly used in rural areas / rural coverage. Also used to provide Dual or Tri-band LTE Advanced coverage within city limits.Source
Bell Mobility1700/2100 AWS4LTE / LTE Advanced4GActiveMain LTE Band used across the country. Also being used to provide LTE Advanced coverage.Source
Bell Mobility2600 IMT-E7LTE / LTE Advanced4GActive / Being deployedFound in select markets, but being developed slowly in new markets alongside to provide LTE Advanced coverage.Source
Rogers Wireless850 CLR5GSM/GPRS/EDGE2GActiveSource
Rogers Wireless1900 PCS2GSM/GPRS/EDGE2GActiveSource
Rogers Wireless850 CLR5UMTS/HSPA+3GActiveSource
Rogers Wireless1900 PCS2UMTS/HSPA+3GActiveSource
Rogers Wireless700 Lower A/B/C12/17/13LTE / LTE Advanced4GActiveAdditional LTE band for building penetration and rural coverage in select markets. Also being used to provide LTE Advanced coverage.[22]Source
Rogers Wireless850 CLR5LTE / LTE Advanced4GActiveUsed to provide LTE Advanced coverage in select markets.Source
Rogers Wireless1700/2100 AWS4LTE / LTE Advanced4GActiveMain LTE band providing complete coverage. Also being used to provide LTE Advanced coverage.[22]Source
Rogers Wireless2600 IMT-E7LTE / LTE Advanced4GActiveAdditional LTE band for more bandwidth in select markets. Also used to provide LTE Advanced coverage in select markets.Source
Rogers Wireless1900 PCS2LTE / LTE Advanced4GActiveUsed to provide LTE Advanced coverage in select markets.Source
Rogers Wireless2600 IMT-En38NR5GActive / Being DeployedSource
Rogers Wireless600 DDn71NR5GTo be deployed in late 2020Pending DeploymentSource
Telus Mobility850 CLR5UMTS/HSDPA/HSPA+/DC-HSPA+3.5GActiveFallback for calls & 3G data.Source
Telus Mobility1900 PCS2UMTS/HSDPA/HSPA+/DC-HSPA+3.5GActiveFallback for calls & 3G data.Source
Telus Mobility850 CLR5LTE4GActive / Being deployedUsed for extra bandwidth within cities and rural coverage.Source
Telus Mobility1900 PCS2LTE / LTE Advanced4GActive / Being deployedSecondary LTE Band being deployed and used for LTE / LTE Advanced coverage.Source
Telus Mobility700 A/B/C/E12/13/17/29LTE / LTE Advanced4GActive / Being deployedMainly used in rural areas / rural coverage.Source
Telus Mobility1700/2100 AWS4LTE / LTE Advanced4GActiveMain LTE Band used across the country. Also being used to provide LTE Advanced coverage.Source
Telus Mobility2600 IMT-E7LTE / LTE Advanced4GActive / Being deployedFound in select markets, but being developed slowly in new markets alongside to provide LTE Advanced coverage.Source
SSi Mobility (Qiniq)1900 PCS2GSM/GPRS/EDGE2GActiveSource
SSi Mobility (Qiniq)2600 IMT-E7LTE / LTE Advanced4GActiveSource
Eastlink1700/2100 AWS A–F4UMTS3GActiveSource
Eastlink700 MHz Lower A/B/C12/17LTE4GActiveSource
Videotron1700/2100 AWS A–F4UMTS3GActiveSource
Videotron2600 IMT-E7LTE4GActiveSource
Videotron70013LTE4GActiveSource
Videotron17004LTE4GActiveSource
SaskTel1700/2100 AWS A–F4UMTS3GActiveSource
SaskTel70013LTE4GActiveSource
SaskTel260038LTE4GActiveSource
Tbaytel26007LTE4GActiveSource
Freedom Mobile600 E/F/G FDD71LTE4GPending DevelopmentAcquired in a 2019 auction.Source
Freedom Mobile700 C13LTE4GActive/Being DeployedAdditional 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 Mobile1,7004UMTS/HSDPA/HSPA+/DC-HSPA+/LTE3G/4GActive(3G) Main band for providing 3G UMTS Voice & Data services. (LTE) Secondary band that provides LTE for legacy devices.Source
Freedom Mobile1,70066LTE4GActivePrimary band used for LTE service in all regions, excluding Eastern Ontario.Source
Freedom Mobile2,6007LTE4GActivePrimary band for LTE compatible with legacy devices, excluding Eastern Ontario. Acquired from Quebecor.Source
Freedom Mobile2,50041LTE4GPending DevelopmentAdditional band for LTE in select regions of Western Canada. Acquired in residual spectrum auction.Source
Fizz Mobile1700/2100 AWS4LTE / LTE Advanced4GActiveSource
Fizz Mobile8505HSPA3.5GActiveSource
Fizz Mobile19002HSPA3.5GActiveSource
Ice Wireless850 CLR5UMTS/HSDPA/HSPA+/DC-HSPA+3.5GActiveSource
Ice Wireless1900 PCS2UMTS/HSDPA/HSPA+/DC-HSPA+3.5GActiveSource
Ice Wireless190025LTE4GActiveSource
Ice Wireless85026LTE4GActiveSource
Xplornet2300 WCS30LTE4GActiveSource
Telus2300 WCS30LTE4GActiveSource
Xplornet2500 BRS41LTE4GActiveSource
Bell3500 C-Band42LTE4GActiveSource
Xplornet3500 C-Band42LTE4GActiveSource

Definitions

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.

Pricing

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

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!

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