A Practical Guide to Affordable Telecom in Canada

Recently I find myself having similar and repeated conversations with friends and family about the different ways they can save money on their telecommunications services. This has motivated me to write and maintain this blog post, which is intended as a practical guide to saving money on the telecommunication services that most people need.

The selection of services and providers I outline in this guide evolved through my own tinkering, curiosity, and experimentation as someone who has been fascinated by technology their entire lives. Through what seems like an innate desire to pick apart, understand, and recombine, I’ve discovered the following unconventional approaches which I’d like to share with you.

Telephone

With the advent of digital phone service and the internet, competition in delivering home phone service has brought the ongoing cost down to zero. If you still want to have a home phone service provider, for an upfront cost of $99, and the purchase of your own equipment (~$80), you can have a home phone line with unlimited national calling (excluding the territories), and affordable worldwide long distance.

Bottom Line: $0/month, up to $240 one-time

Internet

In Canada, the CRTC has mandated wholesale access to the physical wires entering your home from the big phone and cable companies. This allows other companies to compete and offer lower prices on access to the internet. Depending on your desired speed (the newest fibre-based connections are not yet available on a wholesale basis), you can easily obtain internet access at a much lower price than the major carriers.

  • My ISP: CarryTel (from $49.99/mo)
    • For $10 off installation Cable Packages, use promo code “KI22710”
    • For $10 off installation of FTTN Packages, use promo code “KI9378”
  • Lowest cost provider: CikTel (from $34.99/mo)
    • No personal experience with them

Bottom Line: $34.99/mo

I will mention one more thing as it relates to Home Internet service. It is very important to understand the root causes of slow internet speed at home. If you are accessing the internet over WiFi, a low-cost or low-quality WiFi access point/router is usually the cause of slow speed, not your physical line to the outside world. Some ISP’s will use aggressive sales tactics which exploit this ignorance and blame the connection in an attempt to get you to switch providers. Always compare your connection speed when connected to your modem/router using a physical ethernet cable. If you’re having trouble with WiFi speed, consider upgrading your router instead of using the one your ISP provided you with. Here’s a top of the line router.

Mobile Phone

My mobile phone service has been my greatest source of savings. Various providers offer VoIP-based calling and messaging services over mobile phones as well. This eliminates the need to obtain voice and SMS service from the company you use to access cell towers, and frees you to look at data-only packages which typically cost much less than traditional service packages.

  • My Voice & SMS Service: Fongo (downloadable app)
    • $0/mo for unlimited Canada calling (excluding territories)
    • $1.67/mo for unlimited Canada SMS
    • Includes call forwarding, visual voicemail, call waiting, caller ID, conference calling
    • Does not include: Picture Messaging (MMS)
  • My Network Access Service (Data): FIDO Tablet Data Plan
    • $10/mo for 4GB of LTE data*

Bottom Line: $11.67/mo for Unlimited Calling & Texting, 4GB Data

* FIDO officially states that you must have a full phone package in order to be eligible to subscribe to the tablet data plans that they offer. However, I was able to sign up and have service for 3+ years simply by asking at the store. There are other providers which offer data-only service without such stipulations though, e.g. fongowireless.com, which has data-only plans starting at $9.95/mo.

Television

Have you heard of the term “cord-nevers”? It’s used to describe typically younger Canadians who have never independently subscribed to a traditional Cable TV packages, opting for digital streaming services exclusively. Yes, this is certainly possible, especially with the rise of SmartTV’s which can be loaded with applications to access content directly from the studios, stations, or other producers. Be careful though, app-based streaming subscriptions can easily add up and even exceed the cost of a traditional cable packages if you aren’t careful! I’ll share my collection of streaming services as an illustrative example.

  • Live Television Channels: $0/mo for CBC, CTV, Global Over the Air (digital antenna)
  • CBC Gem: $0/mo (ad supported)
  • Netflix: $9.99/mo
  • Viki: ~$60/yr
  • PBS WNED: $5/mo
  • Youtube Premium: $12.99/mo (includes YouTube Music, a Spotify Competitor)
  • Amazon Prime Video: $79/yr (includes Amazon Prime)

Bottom Line: $39.56/mo

As you can see above, this price works out to much less than the average cable package, and nets me some other great services like YouTube Music, and Amazon Prime. If this is too extreme for you though, it can be helpful to know that there’s some very healthy competition in the traditional television service market. CarryTel (my ISP) also offers television service starting at $14.99/mo including 66 channels, when you also subscribe to their Internet service.

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