With more people working from home due to coronavirus
, mobile internet is a great option to help boost your connectivity. Whether you need it as a backup for slow speeds on your regular home internet connection, or just to get you connected to the internet wirelessly, we’ll help you compare plans to find the right one for your needs.
Most of these internet plans are designed to be used with a tablet or modem with a SIM slot, so in most cases, you don’t even need to buy a separate device to use it.
Compare mobile internet plans below
Some of Canada’s largest telecom companies provide options for mobile internet. You’ll usually need to purchase a Wi-Fi hub or stick to take advantage of these plans. You can also use them on a tablet or with your cell phone.
Mobile Internet options
Turbo stick, Turbo hub or MiFi hub
Bell offers unlimited and shareable mobile data plans
|Shareable plans offer between 100MB to 50GB||Between $10 and $150 per month|
Rocket stick, Rocket hub, MiFi mobile hotspot
Rogers offers a number of mobile plans that cost different amounts based on how much data you use
|100MB to 100GB of data, depending on how much you pay||Between $10 and $170 per month|
Smart Hub, Internet Key and Internet Hub
Telus offers fixed and flexible data plans. Flexible plans let you pay as you go, while fixed give you a fixed amount of data each month
|Flexible plans: 100MB to 10GB of data|
Fixed plans:2GB or 6GB of data
|Flexible plans: $10 to $85 per month|
Fixed plans:$40 to $65 per month
Information above current as of June 8, 2020
What is mobile internet and how does it work?
Mobile internet is a type of connection that doesn’t rely on wired connections to your house or device. Instead, it uses the same 3G and 4G networks that your mobile phone might use to connect to the internet, meaning it can achieve the same kind of data speed.
Much like your phone, mobile devices usually need to be able to exchange signals with a communications tower in order to work.
What are the different types of mobile internet?
There are 3 main types of mobile or “wireless” internet connections available these days: 2 that are more ‘on the go’ types of mobile internet and home wireless internet.
- SIM only internet. This type doesn’t require any type of modem to get you connected. Simply buy a data-only SIM and you can easily pop it into a tablet, mobile, or laptop that already has a 4G modem built in.
- Portable modems. If your phone, laptop or tablet doesn’t already have a 4G modem built into it, you’ll need a separate modem to get you connected. USB sticks are great for plugging into your laptop for extra juice on the go, but if you’d like to connect multiple devices, consider getting a portable WiFi hotspot modem instead.
- Home wireless internet. This is less transportable as it’s designed to be used in your home. You’ll get a larger modem with built-in WiFi to use, and it’ll need to be connected to a power source in order to work. Home wireless internet plans will usually have higher data allowances and can be a great alternative if you’re not having success with normal fixed-line connections.
The main difference between these types is their portability, with home wireless internet being more of an in-home solution compared to mobile internet where smaller, more portable modems are used.
Mobile internet devices explained
As previously mentioned, mobile devices are what makes this internet connection a more portable solution. Here are the different types of devices you could use:
- Wi-Fi hotspots. A Wi-Fi hotspot is created by a mobile modem or pocket Wi-Fi device. Essentially, your mobile modem (usually battery-powered) connects to the internet via the mobile network, then shares that connection with devices around it. Home internet modems are the same idea, although they’re generally larger, more powerful and much more difficult to move around to different locations.
- USB stick (dongles). A USB stick, or dongle, plugs directly into the USB slot on your computer or other device. It will then provide the connected device with mobile internet. Some modern dongles can also act as portable hotspots, allowing internet access to devices other than the one it’s plugged into.
- Built-in solutions for SIM-only internet. Though rare, some highly portable laptops and other devices will come with a SIM slot included. They contain a modem able to access the mobile network, which will allow them to hop on the Internet or act as a portable hotspot when the SIM is activated.
Is mobile internet the right option for me?
Ultimately, this depends on when and how you use the internet. It’s possible your phone can act as a data hotspot, but this isn’t a great permanent solution considering how limited phone data normally is.
Mobile’s main draw is portability, making it useful for:
- Someone who moves frequently or can’t get the wired connection speed they want at home
- People who are out and about, but may want reliably fast Internet for doing work while commuting or playing online games on a portable console or laptop
- Anyone who may need to share a data connection with multiple devices, for collaboration or convenience
- People who want a backup in case their wired internet connection goes down
If you’re still unsure, here’s a quick summary of the pros and cons of mobile internet:
- Portability. Wi-Fi hotspots or portable modems can be used anywhere. Even your home mobile internet modem can be unplugged and hooked up somewhere else, if you desire.
- Connection speed. Mobile internet can theoretically outspeed even a decent cable connection under the right circumstances.
- Sharing power. Multiple people can connect to a hotspot, making it flexible for group work or a family anywhere.
- Unreliability. Bad weather, poor reception or high amounts of network traffic can significantly impact the speed of your connection.
- Limited data. Most traditional mobile internet plans won’t offer over 100GB of data, and it’s usually far less than that.
- Price. Mobile internet data is more expensive compared to a wired home connection, making it costly to get a significant amount of data.
What are mobile internet speeds like?
As with any service, the speed you’ll get with mobile will vary depending on a few different factors. Here’s what matters most:
- Hardware. You’ll get better speeds with newer hardware. Older devices may have weaker processors, limiting the speed of your connection. Whether your device is 3G, 4G or even 5G capable will determine what networks you can access.
- Physical location. This matters much more than you might think. Certain places are blocked or obstructed from mobile signals. Public areas often have a lot of competing data traffic from other people’s devices which will interfere with your connection speed. This is why a home wireless modem that stays in one place can promise more consistent speeds.
- Service provider. A provider can offer 4G connections in major metro areas with maximum speeds much faster than the cable internet. Other providers may only offer slower 3G connections.
- Potential 5G speeds. While 5G is far from being well-established in Canada, some providers are trialing these next-generation networks. It’s not available everywhere, but if you can get it you’ll have access to speedier mobile internet speeds.
Just like wired internet connections, mobile internet can run at a snail’s pace or lightning fast, depending on these factors.
Is mobile internet a good option for working from home?
With more people using the internet during the day due to working from home, it’s likely you’re experiencing some form of Internet congestion and slower speeds than you’re used to. This is where this type of internet might come in handy.
The reason we say ‘might’ is because, as discussed above, there’s no real speed guarantee when it comes to mobile internet since it’s so dependent on various factors. That being said, if you find you’re still getting decent speeds using your mobile data at home, you should, in theory, also get similar speeds on mobile internet since they both use the same mobile networks. It may be a good idea to use mobile internet as a backup option to your normal internet connection, especially if your fixed-line connection speed is so slow that it’s impacting on how productive you can be at work.
What to consider when comparing mobile plans
Picking a good mobile internet plan will obviously depend on your own circumstances and what you want it for, but here are some things to consider no matter why you’re after one:
- Speed. Speed can vary wildly. Don’t just consider the fastest speed promised to you, but also what you’re likely to get when using it. 4G connections are reliably faster than 3G while home wireless plans can often deliver close to their promised speed if there isn’t too much network congestion. If your area has access to 5G, you could be getting speeds that match or exceed a fixed-line cable connection.
- Cost. Mobile internet costs far more than wired connections. Make sure you’re only paying for what you need, or you could be put way out of pocket with fancy and unnecessary features.
- Additional hardware. Factor in the cost of additional modems as part of the plan.
- Data limits. Since mobile internet is so expensive, breaking the data limit will cost you, so make sure you have enough.
Where is mobile internet available?
Because you’re getting your internet access via mobile networks, mobile internet is available anywhere traditional cell service is available. Check your provider’s coverage map to find out where you’ll be able to get a signal.
Mobile internet providers
You may be able to get mobile Internet from some of Canada’s smaller telecom companies if you know where to look. That said, most of the mobile plans on offer come from three of Canada’s biggest Internet providers (Bell, Rogers and Shaw).
Bell mobile internet plans
Bell has a number of mobile plans, ranging from 100MB for $10 per month to 50GB for $150 per month. You can choose a specific rate plan and if you exceed the maximum data allowed for that plan, you’ll just be bumped up to the next tier of pricing. This means you won’t have to pay astronomical overage fees if you use too much data in any given month.
Bell offers a number of devices that you can use to stream your data such as mobile Internet hubs and USB sticks. These cost between $179.95 and $399.99, depending on which type of device you choose. You’ll also have to pay a one-time connection fee of $40 to get your service up-and-running.
Rogers mobile internet plans
Rogers offers a number of mobile plans that cost different amounts based on how much data you use. You’ll usually pay $10 for 100MB of data and upwards of $170 per month for 100GB (which is more than the average person needs). You’ll also pay tiered pricing to limit your data overage charges. For example, if you have a 100MB plan for $10 and you exceed your data limits, you’ll be bumped to the next tier (which is 2GB of data for $30).
To access your data, you’ll need to stream it through one of Rogers’ signature Internet hubs or mobile hotspot devices. These will cost you between $199 and $259 to purchase, depending on which one you pick. You’ll have the choice to bake this cost into your monthly contract or pay the fee outright. When the equipment is paid off, you then own it and may be able to use it with other providers.
Telus mobile internet plans
Telus has an array of mobile options that will give you between 100MB and 10GB of data. Plans start at $10 per month and go up to $85, depending on how much data you plan to use. Telus also functions with tiered pricing so you’ll go up to a higher pricing level if you exceed your monthly data limits. That said, you won’t pay overage charges unless you go over 10GB of data, in which case you’ll pay 5c per MB (or around $1 per 20MB).
You can also choose to pay a fixed price for either 2GB or 6GB of data. In this case, you’ll have to pay the same overage charges as above if you exceed your limits. You can also add a mobile Internet device (like a hub or USB stick) to your plan for between $100 and $270. It will be up to you to decide which one you want, and you can typically spread the cost out over several of your monthly bills.
Frequently asked questions
Is mobile internet the same as WiFi?
No, they’re not the same thing. Mobile internet is a service that relies on mobile networks, while WiFi is a feature of your modem, not an actual separate service being provided.
How fast is mobile internet?
The speed can vary due to a number factors, just like how your mobile phone coverage can vary depending on where you are and how strong your connection to your provider is. With the introduction of 5G in Canada in 2020, speeds could rival those of cable internet soon.