Cell phone adventures: round 2

In part 1 of this series, I decided to take my Android to a new carrier. I’m not dissatisfied with the service, but the coverage around my neighbourhood leaves much to be desired. While trying to find out why my phone wouldn’t work on the Telus network, I learned a bit about the wireless spectrum and digital signal technologies.

With my new info, now I know my Wind-branded Huawei U8100-9 will operate using HSPA 3G on AWS 1700 and UMTS 2100, and 2G over the four GSM bands. In this part of the country, that means my phone should be compatible with Wind Mobile (my original carrier) and Mobilicity, both AWS carriers, and the older and more mature Rogers GSM network, which includes Fido and Chatr brands. Mobilicity is my second choice after Wind, because the networks use the same spectrum and encoding, it’s my only other 3G option, and they have the lowest-cost unlimited data plan on the market (that I know of).

But I’m interested in Fido as well, since I have a SIM card out of my old Nokia phone. I know Fido’s coverage in the apartment is great, meaning I could finally do away with my home phone. I pulled the SIM out of my phone to plug into my Android, and was happy to see the Fido network pop up on my phone, but of course I don’t have service – it was deactivated months ago.

I logged on to the Fido website to reactivate my SIM card, as a test, but their validator threw an error. After some time spent on the phone with Fido’s customer service, I learned that you can’t reactivate a Fido SIM card, you always have to buy a new one. To me, that seems to defeat the purpose of having SIM cards, but I went out and picked up a new one anyway.

I started building my Fido plan on the website. Getting a contract plan anywhere close to what I had with WIND was going to cost about twice as much, since on Fido’s plans, things like call display and voicemail are additional-fee extras. I would also lose province-wide unlimited calling, which I don’t use anyway. But I really don’t want to be locked into another term contract, especially when I’m not getting a new phone out of it.

Fortunately, and surprisingly, Fido’s prepaid plans are much more reasonable. I could get what I want for not much more than what I was paying to WIND, but still no province-wide calling, and limited text messaging. This comes without a contract, but there’s a $35 setup fee. When I added it all up, it was more than was in my budget.

So I put away my new unused SIM card, and had a look at Mobilicity’s pricing. I knew I would be getting weaker service, but at big discounts. I decided to give their completely unlimited plan a try, and see how their coverage compares to WIND. I figured, if the service was still not great in the apartment, at least I could potentially use something like Skype over my WiFi.

Coming up in part 3 of this adventure, the service turns out to me much worse than I thought ….

About Greg Burrell

Greg is an accountant, cyclist and political observer living in Toronto, Canada with too many cats.
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