Between cell service, internet, and TV, there isn’t much in the way of telecommunications that you can’t get from Bell. Be warned, Canada is a big country with complex politics and laws from province to province (and from territory to territory). Be sure to check exactly what’s available in your region, because prices and specific services can vary.
So, what can you expect from Bell, and which plans are right for you?
Bell’s high network speeds are undeniable. The LTE Advanced wireless network can deliver speeds up to 1.15Gbps in select cities, and is the first wireless provider in Canada to successfully do so. Theoretically, speeds can go as high as 1.5 Gbps, according to trials held in Mississauga, Ontario.
The company offers DSL internet at speeds ranging from 500kbps to 50Mbps for downloads and 256kbps to 10Mbps for uploads, depending on where you are.
On the cell side, Bell boasts the largest LTE network in Canada and offers high-speed 4G HSPA+ to its users.
Bell offers all kinds of plans to suit your needs, and you’ll most often be putting together the features yourself a la carte. This has some advantages in terms of customizability, but after spending some time on the company’s website, I urge you to read the fine print carefully. Costs add up quickly, and the fee structure isn’t always obvious.
Basic phone plans
Bell also offers some simpler bundles, which are pretty reasonable if you’re a make-a-few-calls kind of phone user. They’re fairly bare bones though, with very little data included. The Basic Phone 25 plan includes 100MB of free data each month, but any download beyond will cost CA$0.07 per MB.
The basic plans come with a free device, so that’s something to keep in mind. You’ll be locked into a two-year contract, but your phone will be yours at no up-front cost. Your choices are pretty limited, but a free phone is a free phone.
Family share plans
Bell’s share plans essentially allow you to split your service between users, so that you pay a single bill for multiple phones. There are a few different ways to get a family plan, and they each have their own advantages.
Your best bet on rates is to bring in your own phones or buy them at full price from Bell. The “most popular” bring-your-own-device shared plan is the Unlimited Canada calling plan. This offers, as you may have guessed, unlimited, country-wide calling, but also unlimited text, picture, and video messages within Canada for CA$60 per month per person on the plan.
You can get a similar deal for local calls only or calls within Canada and the U.S. for CA$55 per month and CA$75 per month respectively.
These prices seem reasonable, but there’s a catch: data is separate. If you want data on top of that (and who doesn’t?), Bell offers 1GB of shareable data for CA$25 per month, going up to 15GB of shareable data for CA$100 per month, with a few options in between.
Prices will vary if you get a phone from Bell, discounted at the point of sale, but that will mean higher monthly rates and could come with mandatory data minimums.
All of these plans have a one-time CA$25 activation charge and come with access to over 4,000 Wi-Fi hotspots across Canada, call display, voicemail, conference calling, and call waiting.
Prepaid Bell plans
If you don’t want to get caught in a contract or getting surprises at the end of the month, Bell also offers prepaid plans.
Your cheapest option clocks in at CA$30 per month. This gets you 150 anytime local minutes; unlimited Canada-wide, U.S., and international text, picture, and video messages; and 250MB of data. Bump that up to 1GB of data and unlimited minutes for CA$60 per month.
You can also get voice-only prepaid plans starting as low as CA$5 per month and going up to CA$35 per month for 150 minutes weekdays and unlimited minutes for evenings and weekends.
Home internet from Bell isn’t available everywhere. In British Columbia, for example, Bell customers are restricted to mobile internet. Elsewhere, the company has some pretty impressive offerings. You’ll want to check the website to see what’s available wherever you are.
Bell advertises the Gigabit Fibe plan as its popular offering. For CA$79.95 per month for your first year, you get up to 1Gbps download speeds, up to 750Mbps upload speeds and unlimited bandwidth. Heads up that after six months, the service goes up to CA$104.95 per month though.
If you’re on a budget, maybe the Fibe 50 plan is more up your alley. With its much slower speeds, it’s clearly got nothing on the Gigabit Fibe plan — except a more affordable price tag of CA$59.95 per month for six months.
Despite being known for phone and internet service, Bell also offers satellite TV packages, grouped into “Good,” “Better,” and “Best” categories, based on channel options. While the labels may be a little on the nose, they are fairly apt.
The Good package gets you TSN, Bravo, Discovery, A&E, MTV, Much, YTV, and more for an initial one year cost of CA$42.95 per month, and a regular price of CA$58.95 per month.
The Better package, which includes AMC, BET, Animal Planet, Action, Disney, Showcase, Space, and more goes for CA$84.95 per month, with an initial first year cost of CA$68.95.
And the Best package goes all out. You’ll get the channels mentioned above, along with FX, BBC, Slice, MovieTime, CNN, Lifetime, National Geographic, PBS, and more, along with a host of radio stations. That’ll cost you CA$119.95 per month after a first-year promo price of CA$103.95 per month.
You can also build your own TV package, starting with basic channels like ABC, CBC, Global, APTN, and a few others for CA$24.95 per month. Then you add on the channels you want. Add on a movie bundle including TMN, TMN Encore, HBO, and Crave TV for CA$25 per month, for example. Pick individual channels starting at CA$4 per month each.
Whatever TV package you choose will come with a CA$59.95 one-time installation fee with a two-year contract. You can rent an HD PVR for CA$15 per month from Bell or purchase it for CA$499, and Bell also offers a CA$7-per-month HD receiver.
Do we recommend getting a Bell plan? That’s a tough question. If you want mobile, internet, and TV, getting all three from Bell will allow you to benefit from bundle discounts. On the other hand, some of these rates are pretty high.
On the internet side, if speed is your first priority, Bell could be what you want. Discount companies like TekSavvy offer much better prices, but the speed and consistency of Bell might give you the peace of mind you need.
Same goes for mobile. Freedom will cost you less financially, but the limited coverage may drive you up the wall and cost you more in other ways.
There’s really no easy answer here, but hopefully we’ve offered a clear breakdown to help you make the right choice for your particular needs.
What do you think? Have you had great or awful experiences with Bell? Let us know in the comments.