Between cell service, internet, and TV, there isn’t much in the way of telecommunications that you can’t get from Bell. But be warned, Canada is a big country with complex politics from province to province (and from territory to territory). You’ll want to check exactly what’s on offer in your region, because prices and specific services do 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 of 1 gigabit per second and is the first wireless provider in Canada to successfully do so. Theoretically, speeds can go as high as 1.5 Gbps, as they did in trials held in Mississauga, Ontario.
The company offers DSL internet at speeds ranging from 500 kbit/s to 50 Mbit/s for downloads and 256 kbit/s to 10 Mbit/s 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 à la carte. This has some advantages in terms of customizability, but after spending some time on the company’s website, my first piece of advice is to read the fine print carefully. Costs add up quickly, and the fee structure isn’t always obvious up front.
Basic phone plans
When it comes to Bell plans, the company does offer some simple bundles. The company’s basic phone plans are pretty reasonable, if you’re a make-a-few-calls kind of phone user. They’re fairly bare bones though. If you want a reasonable amount of data, you’ll be looking at $30 for an additional 500 MB, or $40 for 1 GB, which might make you go another route.
The basic plans do 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. Their “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 $60/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 $55/month and $75/month respectively.
If these prices seem reasonable, here’s the catch: data is offered separately. If you want data on top of that (and who doesn’t?), Bell offers 1 GB of shareable data for $25 per month, going up to 15 GB of shareable data for $100 per month, with a few options in between.
Prices will vary if you get a phone from Bell, which will be 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 $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 $30.75 per month. This gets you 150 anytime local minutes; unlimited Canada-wide, U.S., and international text, picture, and video messages; and 200 MB of data. Bump that up to 1 GB of data for $65.75 per month.
You can also get voice-only prepaid plans starting as low as $15.75 per month and going up to $55.75 per month for virtually unlimited calling and texting in Canada and the U.S.
Home internet from Bell isn’t available everywhere. In British Columbia, for example, Bell customers are restricted to mobile internet. But 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 Fibe 50 as its popular offering. For $59.95 per month for your first year, you get solid speeds and unlimited bandwidth. Heads up that after a year, the service goes up to $94.95 per month though.
If you’re on a budget, maybe the Essential Plus is more up your alley. With slower speeds and a bandwidth cap of 20 GB per month, it’s clearly got nothing on the Fibe 50 plan — except an affordable price tag of $34.95 per month. You also save the $59.95 activation fee that accompanies any Fibe (fibre to the node) connection.
Despite being known for phone and internet service, Bell also offers satellite TV packages. These are 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 six-month cost of $24.95 per month, and a regular price of $55.95 per month.
The Better package, which includes AMC, BET, Animal Planet, Action, Disney, Showcase, Space, and more goes for $88.95 per month, with an initial six-month cost of $57.95.
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 $128.95 per month after a six-month promo price of $97.95 per month.
You can also build your own TV package, starting with basic channels like ABC, CBC, Global, APTN, and a few others for $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 $25 per month, for example. Or pick individual channels starting at $4 per month each.
Whatever TV package you choose will come with a $59.95 one-time installation fee with a two-year contract. You can rent an HD PVR for $15 per month from Bell or purchase it for $499, and Bell also offers a $7-per-month HD receiver.
Do we recommend getting a Bell plan? That’s a tough question. If you’re getting mobile, internet, and TV, then 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, then maybe Bell is what you want. Discount companies like TekSavvy will 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.
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