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March 18, 2022

Should budget cell phone users choose new player Public Mobile?

The faucet is on. The providers are starting to trickle in.

More than a year after the CRTC announced new players would soon freshen up the wireless market – and only three months after WIND Mobile made a bid to become our saviour from the Bell/Telus/Rogers stranglehold – a new discount network can be seen on the horizon trying to save Canadians cash.

Public Mobile announced today it will launch in Toronto and Montreal this May, basing its service on a budget, unlimited talk-and-text plan for $40 a month.

Ahead of its network debut, the carrier has some 25 stores open in the two cities selling phones already, according to the Canadian Press.

Now, with WIND and its 30,000 new clients having mounted a steady, albeit modest, push to dethrone the Big Three, what will this mean for Public Mobile’s chances of developing a lasting consumer base?

Let’s compare the two:

Public Mobile’s only plan ($40/month) is comparable to WIND’s “Always Shout” plan ($45/month). Both services offer unlimited outgoing/incoming calls*, unlimited text messaging and long distance across Canada*.

The Public plan is $5 cheaper per month, but doesn’t include voicemail/caller ID, which WIND’s plan does. Public Mobile charges exactly $5/month for those add-ons, though, so the comparison is pretty much a wash. They’re essentially the same, presuming you want voicemail and caller ID on your phone.

Of course, there’s a reason I keep sticking asterisks and words like “essentially” in the Public/WIND judgment here. As I’ve maintained since January, WIND Mobile is only a solid deal if you live in Toronto, Calgary and Edmonton (their only current coverage areas) and don’t plan on using your phone anywhere else. Outside of those cities, your unlimited calling goes out the window, and suddenly you’re paying 25 cents per minute no matter where you call.

Public Mobile, too, has the same problem. Maybe worse. Only users in Toronto and Montreal should even consider Public at this point (those two, like WIND’s three home zones, will be the only initial coverage areas come May), but here’s the kicker: if you are outside the Toronto/Montreal city limits with your Public phone, it won’t work – at all. You won’t be able to make or receive a single call outside these zones, not even for 25 cents a minute. All you’ll have is a paperweight in your pocket.

If you can handle these drawbacks, WIND or Public are for you. After all, both carriers have no qualms over who their target demographics are; they want budget users and Canadians with no existing cell phones. They want the people that don't live and die by their mobile handsets.

But – and I can’t believe I’m saying this – most poeple might be better off with one of the Big Three carriers for now. Until WIND and Public develop their service and expand their coverage areas, the two networks appear like a “stay away” when you consider the above plan deficiencies and lack of desirable phones.

For now, seems like WIND and Public would provide more headaches than actual savings.

By Jason Buckland, MSN Money



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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...

James HaversJames Havers

James is the senior editor of MSN Money living in Toronto. He has worked for the Nikkei Shimbun (Tokyo),,, Canadian Business and other publications. Havers turned to journalism after teaching overseas.

Jason BucklandJason Buckland

The modern-day MC Hammer of money, Jason can often be seen spending cash that isn’t his with the efficiency of a Wilt Chamberlain first date. After cutting his teeth as a reporter for the Toronto Sun, he joined the MSN Money team with...