Bell and Telus launch HSPA+ network

The big news in Canadian wireless service (besides the CRTC’s absolutely shameful decision to deny Globalive/WIND an operating license) is the launch of Bell and Telus’ joint HSPA+ network. The network uses the 850/1900 MHz bands and operates with MNC/MCC 302-880, so you can search for coverage with your existing “3G” device to see if it connects properly.

There are quite a number of questions surrounding the launch – mostly because the Canadian wireless industry highly encourages contracts, people are wondering if it’s the right time to move to a new provider, change their plan to the new network, or see if they can upgrade their device. Here’s the information that’s been distilled from HowardForums and other quasi-official sources. If you have updates with verifiable information, please comment and I’ll update the post accordingly.

Will Bell or Telus let me move my voice/data plan to the new HSPA+ network?

  • Bell: There’s been at least one confirmed report of a customer able to move the $30 unlimited data plan to HSPA+ on Bell. Another user reported success changing $30 unlimited Windows Mobile data to $30 unlimited BlackBerry data. However, all customers who’ve successfully done this have also performed a hardware upgrade (HUG) or contract renewal at the same time. Tethering is not included on the $30 unlimited plan for both CDMA and HSPA devices. There are no details on voice plan migrations, but all the information so far indicates that voice plans should also migrate over.
  • Telus: The situation is far less forgiving for existing CDMA customers. There is no equivalent to the popular “$15/unlimited data” package on the new HSPA+ network, so users enjoying this option should definitely wait on what future plans are available. Users mention that their voice plans have been carried over successfully, but all have individually purchased non-Telus devices. They then buy a SIM card for $9.99, and activate through the e.Care system – not necessarily involving a customer service representative. The scenario generally seems to be that you’ll have to choose an in-market data plan to move to the new network.

What about my hardware upgrade (HUG) availability or credit?

Both Bell and Telus forums report that hardware upgrade credits can be applied to HSPA+ devices, although they may be significantly less than what customers are expecting – many Bell clients are only reporting a $150 discount from a device’s full price, which isn’t a deal at all.

If you plan to hardware upgrade to a HSPA+ device and are not in the last 2-3 months of your contract, I would highly recommend that you wait until the Christmas season, when the early adopters are out of the system and customer service will have more ability to offer discounts. Keep in mind that if you have less than a month left, especially on Telus, you may want to try your luck with Loyalty and Retentions to maintain your credits.

Does my Bell/Telus HSPA+ phone come unlocked?

No. All phones are sold locked to their own individual carrier. I’m still waiting on reports as to how Bell and Telus differentiate their SIM cards, since the mobile network code and mobile carrier codes are the same across both providers. You can determine the locking status on a BlackBerry by accessing the Options/Advanced Options/SIM Card screen, then typing MEPD.

Bell will apparently unlock their own phones for $75, but there are many third-party companies that will provide this service for significantly less.

Should I move to Bell/Telus if I have my own hardware?

Both Bell and Telus will require that you sign a 36-month contract to take advantage of their advertised, in-market plans – so consider that you may want to take a new device at a subsidy and try selling either it or your old device.

Keep in mind that even if you have your own phone that takes a SIM card, it needs to be compatible with the new network’s UMTS 850/1900 bands. This means that devices like the BlackBerry 8830, Storm 9500 and 9530, Palm Pre, and original iPhone won’t work as expected.

  • Bell: For customers bringing their own BlackBerry Bold, it may be possible to save 20% on the appropriate rate plan. This is completely unconfirmed, but would essentially mean you’d pay $36 instead of $45 per month as a base. Consider, though, that Bell still charges a $6.95/month System Access Fee.

Can I activate a prepaid phone on HSPA?

  • Bell: Not yet. Reports indicate that they’re considering offering this option in a few weeks.
  • Telus: Yes, but only for voice and SMS. Data access isn’t currently enabled.

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