Phillip Smith

Forget about cutting your cable

Cut your mobile phone minutes plan instead

Consensus is that consumers can save by eliminating their reliance on cable companies and using Internet services instead. The story with mobile is moving in that direction too.

Digital Nomad

When I hit the ground in Canada in August, I wrote that the mobile phone carrier I was using offered me a free gigabyte of data; little did I know that my total mobile bill for eight weeks would end up being $10.

Just to finish that story line, here’s what happened:

  • As foretold, 30 days after the carrier in question offered me a free gigabyte of data, that freebie expired. So, now what?

  • Moments after the plan expired, when I tried to access the Internet on my phone, the carrier provided me with some convenient pay-as-you-go options for data: a day pass, a weekly pass, and low-and-behold, a 30-day pass – 250MB of data for $10.

I’ve been using a data monitoring program on my iPhone for some time now, and I know that 250MB of data is actually more than sufficient for the amount of data that I use when I’m not in a location that has free WiFi.

Typically, my data use it limited to checking e-mails, sending/receiving iMessages, the occasional Google Map lookup, and making/receiving VOIP calls or sending/receiving SMS messages through the RingCentral app. Had I used up the 250MB in that four-week window in Toronto, I could have topped up with another 250MB for $10 to get me through. But, as luck would have it, that wasn’t necessary.

I’ve had my account with my mobile carrier in Canada for many, many years now – I’d guess 12 or 13 years – and I’ve been out of any type of contract since at least 2010. I buy my phones straight out and unlocked, and I typically travel with three of them (iPhone/Android/Blackberry). To keep my account active with the carrier, I have to pay a nominal “seasonal plan” fee of about $6/month. In the past, I’ve done this to ensure that I’ve got some negotiating leverage when I return to Toronto in the summers, because – typically – the plan I was on the summer before is no longer offered. However, having tested the water of living on just data service and NO MOBILE MINUTES OR SMS PACKAGES for eight weeks, I’m ready to cut the cord.

Before I hit the road to South America in 2009, my monthly mobile phone bill was typically $300, including lots of airtime for conference calls, long distance for Canada and the US, and – of course – mobile data. By the time I left for Mexico in 2011, I had gotten that monthly bill down to about $150. Now, in Mexico, my monthly pre-paid (no contract!) plan is 200 pesos ($17 CAD) including several hours of mobile calling to the US and Canada, which I rely on because the data networks in Mexico are not quite the same as in lands more northern. And, now, in Canada, it seems that I can survive nicely on a pay-as-you-go data plan for about $10-20/month, depending on usage.

To me, that seems about right.


Hi, I'm Phillip Smith, a veteran digital publishing consultant, online advocacy specialist, and strategic convener. If you enjoyed reading this, find me on Twitter and I'll keep you updated.


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