International roaming fees

CRTC to study roaming fees charged in Canada compared with other countries

The CRTC is launching a study of international roaming fees.

These are the fees that Canadians pay for cell phone services when they travel to another country. The study will compare the fees that Canadians pay with the fees charged in other countries. It will help us decide the best way to ensure the fees that Canadians pay are fair.

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What is roaming

When your cell phone is “roaming,” it means you’re using it outside of your service provider’s local coverage area. Roaming makes it possible to use your cell phone on other networks, both in Canada and abroad.

For example, let’s say your service provider is in Canada. You travel from Hamilton to New York. When you arrive in New York, your cell phone is no longer connected to the Canadian service provider’s network. Your cell phone may instead be connected to the network of a service provider with coverage in the United States (U.S.). This is called roaming.

Most cell phone plans today include Canada-wide calling and texting. This means you can travel to different parts of Canada without paying roaming charges when you call or text. However, depending on your plan, you may be charged fees for using data in Canada when outside your local coverage area.

International roaming fees apply when you use your phone outside of Canada. This includes calls that you make and text messages that you send or receive. Fees can also apply to the data you use while roaming. For example, if you’re not connected to a Wi-Fi network and you want to browse the Internet, you can use your data, but international roaming fees will likely apply.

Roaming charges are typically separate from the fees you pay for day-to-day cell phone services.

How to avoid accidental roaming fees

If you are in Canada but close to the U.S. border, your phone may accidentally connect to a U.S. network. To avoid this, you can manually select your service provider’s network in your cell phone’s settings. If you aren’t sure how to do this, consult the user manual for your device or ask your service provider.

You can also be charged for data roaming simply by leaving your phone turned on while travelling. For example, some apps automatically send and receive data even if you’re not actively using your phone. To prevent this, go into your phone’s settings and turn off data roaming.

How to reduce or eliminate roaming fees when travelling

Most service providers offer roaming packages or add-ons that you can purchase to save money when travelling.

Under the CRTC’s Wireless Code, service providers cannot charge more than $100 for roaming per billing cycle unless you explicitly agree to pay more. They are also required to notify you when you are roaming internationally. If you are faced with unexpected charges, contact your provider.

1. Get a travel plan

Contact your service provider to find out if they have travel plans or add-ons that you can purchase. When choosing a plan, you may wish to ask the following questions:


2. Buy a local SIM card, digital SIM card (eSIM), or prepaid plan

By buying a local SIM card, digital SIM card (eSIM), or prepaid plan from a service provider in the country you are visiting, you can avoid roaming charges altogether. You can look at whether this option might be cheaper than the roaming plans offered by your Canadian service provider.

Since you won’t be using your regular number, you will need to let people know how they can contact you while you are travelling.

To use this option, your phone must be “unlocked.” This means it is not tied to a particular service provider. Under the CRTC’s Wireless Code, phones sold today by Canadian service providers must be unlocked. If you purchased a new phone before December 1, 2017 or bought a used phone, check to see if it’s unlocked. Depending on your device, you may be able to check this in your phone’s settings.

Compatibility: Not all phones work on every network. Do some research in advance to find out if your phone will work in the areas you’re planning to visit.

3. Turn off data roaming

Turning off data roaming on your phone prevents it from connecting to other cellular networks. You won’t be able to browse the Internet unless you connect to a Wi-Fi network, but you’ll still be able to call and text. However, extra charges will apply if your plan does not include calling and texting while travelling.

How to turn off data roaming

Android phone

4. Turn on airplane mode

Airplane mode (also called flight mode) prevents your device from using any data. It will also prevent you from calling and texting. However, you can still connect to a Wi-Fi network.

How to turn on airplane mode

Android phone

If you need help turning off data roaming or turning on airplane or flight mode, contact your service provider.

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