Canadian Mobile Communication…

By Bryan • canada, china • 11 Sep 2008

How wireless communication should be (and is – in most of the sane world)

  1. Purchase any mobile phone model of your choice…preferably the GSM SIM card variety.  You can have as little or as many features as you should want.  You can buy new, you can buy second hand, you can steal it. You can make it out of wood using materials harvested from dead computers,
  2. Purchase a SIM card – this usually involves nothing but going up to any kiosk or newspaper stand…sometimes you might have to sign a paper.
  3. Purchase and airtime card in various denominations.
  4. Bang. You are talking and texting like it is going out of style….or out of money…but then you just need to repeat step  number 4.

That is what I did for four years in China and it was great…but alas…nothing great last forever.

I have now made the official move from the fluffy bunny rabbit and candy cane world of ChinaMobile to the pre-historic wastelands of the Canadian wireless landscape.

So what can a cave-dweller find in this hot vacation spot? 1,2,3 year plans of course…which I didn’t investigate (they probably have different options) and pay-as-you-go options (which I did investigage.

Ohhhh…only one GSM carrier – Rogers.  The rest are on CDMA.  Why should one care about that?  Because GSM phones have SIM cards and SIM cards allow one to use their phone in different countries and with different companies (provided they are GSM) without having to buy a completely new handset.  You only need to exchange the SIM card.  CDMA phone systems are used by Bell and Telus.  If I’m forced to use a mobile phone in Canada when the prices between the carriers are essentially the same, I want the system with the most options available later down the road.

The big guys were not looking good…I don’t talk a lot on the phone, but I do use it nonetheless.  I don’t want to pay the 30 or so dollars/month for unlimited local weekends and evenings…I don’t want ‘activation’ costs…I don’ t wan’t ‘service fees’ and I want to use my own damn phone. I don’t want companies telling me when I can talk and for how long.  I don’t want them cancelling my airtime if it is not used after 30 days.  I want the bloody freedom and liberty that Canadians fought and died for! Luckily a solution presented itself in the most unlikely locations.  Normally known as a place of Slurpees and Big Gulps, 7-Eleven has hopped onto the wireless bandwagon (on the back of the GSM Rogers network) and they have seem to have evolved outside of the cave-dwelling, freedom hating, Osama loving Canadian mobile providers.

Perfect.

I buy a crap phone…pop out the SIM and use it in my own…7-11 is giving away phones at the moment as well.   I then just buy airtime. Simple, simple, simple.  Nothing else.  I can do whatever the frak I want.

One problem.

Kingston…a city of 117,000 people, in a country where 7-Elevens are about as common as maple syrup…doesn’t have one.

A crushing defeat.  If human heads were prone to spontaneous explosion, mine probably would.

I was cornered…I needed a phone.  So yesterday I dragged myself kicking and screaming to the downtown Rogers office prepared to shell out over 500 dollars/year for the privilege of being one of their valued customers.  The rational was…I buy their cheapest phone…about 100 dollars and sign up for one of their plans…at least I’ll get a phone I can use around the world out of it.

Nope…you can’t use the phone with other SIM cards.  Clever, sneaky little Rogers, not willing to loosen their demonic grip on the system, chooses to lock all phones to their network which means you can only use the phone with a Roger’s SIM card.  You can apparently ‘unlock’ your phone with cracks available on the Internet – but that is a option I find too inconvenient.  Which…means…the phone will essentially only work in Canada (the pay-as-you-go variety at least).  For that kind of money I want my phone to work everywhere.

One last saviour.  Petro-Canada apparently also offers the same service as 7-11…but without the free phone give-away.  Success?  I think so.  I’m now the proud owner of a made-in-Mexico cheapest plastic possible Nokia and I’m operating on a purely airtime system in which my minutes don’t expire.  Heaven?  From a petrol company?  Is it possible?

The great irony in all of this super fun is that the Chinese mobile system is actually far more democratic than the Canadian counterpart.  China…democratic…more…than Canada?!?!?!?!?

Another odd tidbit:

I still overlook the fact that we have GST/PST tax in Canada…and it is not included in the displayed prices.  For example, yesterday I had a pita for 5.95 and I was extremely pleased with myself that I had the exact change and how I would shame all of the plastic, debit carrying minions with my pure cheetah like agility and slick payment efficiency.

“That will be 6.73 sir”

“What?  But it said 5.95 on the board!?”

“That’s before tax”

Words do not describe the stupidity I felt a that precise second…but my quick wit saved me from bottomless embarrassement.

“Oh, I always forget that tax isn’t included in Canada…I’m from New York”

Take that GST.

Seriously though, a common comment I hear from those visiting Canada is “Why is tax not included?  I can never answer this question…best I can say it is an accounting item.  However, the rest of the world seems quite capable of including tax in their products

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One Response

  1. Allison

    I can just picture you saying:

    “What? But it said 5.95 on the board!?”

    Nice save.

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