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mrbarlow 04-01-2008 11:30

Experiences from travelling Part III - Ontario, Canada
May 2007 saw our first ever trip to Canada when we went to Toronto.

I certainly wouldn't have fancied the high roaming fees for even minimal usage but I realised that my girlfriend and I would often want to do different things so it was important that we could remain in contact - and cost effectively.

So I purchased a couple of Fido prepaids from a nice Canadian Ebay seller; as requested we got Toronto (416) numbers and each had $25CDN of credit. I opted for the "Anytime" tariff since the phones would most likely get their use during the day-time hours.

We were both using our spare Nokias for the Fido SIMs: both were tri-band only therefore missing the 850MHz frequency used in North America. However from advice given by helpful people (PhotoJIM here being one) I understood that in metropolitan areas, 1900-only would be fine.

From the time we switched our phones on after arriving in Toronto, everything seemed to work fine. From what I can remember, we pretty much always had good levels of signal in the city and (metro aside) were always able to call/sms each other.

There were occasionally areas en route to Niagara where signal strength was a little less good but for the most part, the absence of 850MHz never seemed to cause us any problems.

As for usage of Fido's service itself; we only really made calls and sent sms. I don't really remember using voicemail nor data: we took a laptop and had wifi at the apartment so were were sorted for web/email and international calls were made via voip.

I did register for the online portal on Fido's website but I don't remember that much about it other than it telling me how much credit I had etc.

So, an enjoyable trip and one on which getting sorted with Pre-paid SIMs was ABSOLUTELY worthwhile.

Next up (and in the Euro forum): Christmas in Tallinn, Estonia.

bylo 04-01-2008 13:18

Good to hear about your positive experiences with Fido. They're owned by Rogers, Canada's largest cell carrier, so they tend to have good coverage, especially in the "Golden Horseshoe" part of Ontario that you visited.

The reason why roaming is so expensive here is because Rogers/Fido is the only GSM carrier in Canada. They know that anyone who arrives here with a 850/1900 GSM phone is going to get their signal or nothing, so they charge whatever they like. It's only when you get back home and see your phone bill that you'd realize how badly they'd raped you. And what would you do then?

P.S. I was in Wales last summer with a 900/1900 phone. My experience in Pembrokeshire was that 900 coverage was very spotty along the coast. There were many areas even in St Davids or Fishguard when there was no signal. That's why I now have a quadband KRZR.

PhotoJim 04-01-2008 15:00

I'm glad you had a good experience in Canada. Your experiences lacking GSM 850 roughly matched what I would have expected. The difference in coverage area is not that large.

Even in the rural areas, GSM 1900 is pretty good in Canada. I have taken major highway journeys (e.g. Regina to Calgary to Edmonton to Regina) with a tri-band phone and had good coverage the whole way.

I even have a couple of tri-band phones that I got in Europe this summer (a Sony-Ericsson Z310i with EDGE, and an S-E K610i that doesn't have EDGE but does have UMTS 2100) and service is quite good. I don't find myself wanting for GSM 850 all that often.

The US, now, is a different matter. There are places that have GSM 850 coverage and no GSM 1900 at all.

As for European coverage, I don't have any tri-band phones that lack GSM 900 so I can't really comment, except to say that I was really surprised at how good Orange's coverage was in some places (it's GSM 1800 only). I did notice in London though that I tended to lose Orange before I lost O2 or Vodafone.

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