Charlie Drage

Switching from a voice to a data only smartphone plan in Canada

I recently switched to a $20 / month 1GB data-only plan for my phone. Gone are the days of $70+ bills. Data only. No built-in SMS / phoning. Only awesome data.

Ironically, if you ask anywhere if they have a data-only plan for cell-phones, they would reply no.. However, no one is going to stop you from subscribing to a tablet data-only plan and sticking the SIM card in your phone.

Canadians still pay the highest (in the WORLD!) for cellphones according to CBC. Seriously. The cheapest plan that you can find is $45 / month for 500MiB of data on Koodo. I researched on how I could switch and found this blog post and decided why-not. The next day, I cancelled my Koodo plan and switch to a Bell data-only tablet plan.

Nothing’s every 100%. I switched with some caveats introduced with a data-only plan:

  • I phone via a SIP provider (VOIP.ms) on a SIP client (Linphone)
  • I SMS via VOIP.ms SMS an open source Android app that connects to VOIP.ms’ free SMS service
  • My SIM-card assigned phone number works, but has extremely-high rates (50c a minute, 75c per text). Ideally you’d only use this for emergencies if you’re without data!

I won’t go into detail on how to set this up, but here’s the gist of what you need to do:

  1. Get rid of that pesky old plan
  2. Walk into Bell and ask for a tablet data-only flex plan
  3. Throw that old SIM card out and put in your new one
  4. Setup a DID on VOIP.ms via Step 1 and Step 2 of this guide. Afterwards, use a client such as Linphone or CSipSimple with your DID registration details. This will be your new way to phone people as well as your new number
  5. Enable SMS on VOIP.ms with this guide on their wiki
  6. Download VOIP.ms SMS and enter your login details. It’s text-only (no MMS or group chats!) but it’s the best way to communicate to those still using non-smartphone plans. Besides, this will be your communication medium to convince them to switch to Hangouts / WhatsApp / Messenger / etc..

It only took an hour for setup and a bit of troubleshooting for initially setting up the DID on VOIP.ms (is there ANY service out there with free SMS texting that’s as clean as VOIP.ms w/ VOIP.ms SMS?)

But now I can relish in the fact that my phone bill is $20 a month (tax-in!) and no longer $65+. Thanks to the flex plan that Bell has, if I decide to go over the 1GB, it’s only $40 / month for 5GB of data. Any GB after that is $10 / month. Reminds me of Google Fi (plz come to canada!).

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