The combined 4G LTE and 5G networks of Telus, Rogers, and Bell currently service 97% of Canadians. With such an enormous market share between them, what really are the differences between Canada’s Big Three? Telus vs. Rogers vs. Bell details below.
If you live in Canada, there’s a 97% chance that your cell phone operates on one of three networks: Telus, Rogers, or Bell. As of this writing, Telus leads its two main competitors in coverage area, overall speed, reliability, and customer service rating. (Note: some smaller brands rate even higher for customer service.)
All three major Canadian providers now offer 5G coverage. Though availability is limited, more Canadian markets are expected to be added soon.
But when it comes to the basics of cell phone service, their networks and prices don’t really look that different from each other. In Canada, no matter which provider you choose, you’ll likely benefit from a cell signal booster that can prevent dropped calls and unreliable cell signals. Coverage maps vary, and there are many rural areas that need more cell towers. Think of a signal booster as the great equalizer, picking up the slack for network providers’ shortcomings.
There certainly are differences among cell phone carriers, however. In this article, we’ll discuss what makes each company unique in addition to briefly going over alternative Canadian providers like Virgin Mobile, Koodo, Fido, and others.
Rogers began as a cable television provider, while Telus and Bell both started out as telephone companies. Eventually, all three companies added home broadband internet to their list of offerings. From there, they grew leaps and bounds, offering an ever-expanding list of services. Today, all three companies still offer everything already mentioned. But now, nationwide wireless services have become the priority for Canadians. As a result, Bell, Rogers, and Telus have built themselves into cellular network powerhouses.
In 2021, these three providers together cover almost 100% of every cellphone-carrying Canadian. However, the consensus concern based on customer feedback from all three companies is price. Data plans in Canada are some of the highest in the world and seem to be designed for customers wanting premium services rather than catering to every kind of user.
Is This True? If So, Why?
Many Canadians believe that Telus, Rogers, and Bell conspire with each other in an effort to take advantage of consumers, raising prices on services simply because they can. The issue with this accusation is that it simply isn’t true. Yes, Canada has a higher concentration of telecom market share compared to other countries. And yes, the Canadian telecom landscape is highly protected. But these things don't automatically translate into an exploitative monopoly. Plus, there are MANY alternatives available to every Canadian that we'll get into further down this article.
Yes, Telus, Rogers, and Bell serve 9 out of every 10 Canadians. And yes, it’s been interesting to observe price matching between these three companies over the years. When one changes the price on a particular plan, the others tend to follow suit shortly after. Where prices and plan details are concerned, Canada’s Big Three are surprisingly in step with each other.
However, there’s just no evidence showing that these companies have been directly or indirectly undercutting or hindering their competition. If you’re looking for proof of some kind of organized collusion, it simply isn’t there.
But this doesn’t change the fact that so many Canadians are unhappy with their country’s telecom situation as it currently stands. The dissatisfaction appears to come from the fact that most Canadians simply do not use vast amounts of mobile data that premium cell phone plans boast. Sure, some do, and such plans are great for them. But so many others feel they are overpaying.
It’s worth noting that in 2019, Rogers lowered considerably their prices on many of their plans, even simplifying each option to make choices clearer and easier for consumers. They even got rid of data overage charges and added many new perks. And as expected, Telus and Bell followed suit. Though the prices are still considered premium rates, Canadians should be happy about this.
Here’s the thing. There are alternatives. If you would prefer to try something other than Bell, Rogers, or Telus, there are lots of options to choose from. In fact, these three companies themselves own flanker brands (as they’re affectionately called in Canada) to provide consumers with more choices that fit the needs of the individual. For example:
- Lucky Mobile (Bell)
- Virgin Mobile (Bell)
- Fido (Rogers)
- Chatr (Rogers)
- Koodo (Telus)
- Public Mobile (Telus)
What Is A Flanker Brand?
In simple terms, these are smaller brand names that piggyback off the networks of the Big Three and offer cheaper monthly plans. These companies often target younger audiences in their marketing. They offer more customizable options such as prepaid services and other reduced features. Our cell phone signal boosters are also compatible with these flanker brands in addition to the big three.
The cell phone plans with these alternate companies are great but may not be for everybody. For example, Lucky Mobile offers big-data plans on the cheap, but the download speeds are slower than what you would get when going with Bell directly. Flanker brands usually don’t offer 5G and other premium options like bundling or data sharing. But what they do offer is a really good balance of features and price. In almost every case, you get reliable service and great coverage since flanker brands use the networks of their parent companies. There’s lots of evidence online to suggest that these alternative providers have even better customer service ratings than their parent networks.
Telus vs. Rogers vs. Bell: The Plans & Financing Options Of The Big Three
Now that we’ve mentioned some alternate options that you can explore if you feel inclined, let’s get back to the differences between Telus, Bell, and Rogers specifically.
They all offer unlimited data plans but prices between networks can differ in some cases. For the most part, unlimited data plans with each company start at around $75 per month. But if you live in certain provinces - namely Quebec, Manitoba, or Saskatchewan - it can be less expensive. Combining multiple lines onto one bill can also save money on these plans.
The thing is, though, there are restrictions with these unlimited data plans. The main one being that when you exceed the data limit you’re paying for (typically 10GB, 20GB, or 50GB) your speeds go down. Fortunately, you’re not charged extra when you go over.
Outside the unlimited data plans, your options are very limited. This is a reason why we recommend exploring flanker brands if you’re looking to save money, especially if you know you won’t need very much data. And pairing a flanker brand with low data alongside our