Saskatchewan cellular providers
I've always been rather fascinated by cellular phones and technology. I worked for a local cellular phone shop in 1989-90 for a few months because I liked the technology so much.
I didn't get my own mobile phone until 2001 because of the cost. Thankfully, I've now joined the middle class so I can manage to keep my phone going. :)
This page will gradually grow to have much more information, but here is a brief description of the providers in the province and their advantages and disadvantages.
SaskTel Mobility - by far the most popular provider in the province. The coverage area is by far the best of all the providers. Even remote northern communities often have coverage, although there are some gaps once you get north of La Ronge. The entire network is CDMA 800 plus analog, with 1XRTT data capability; as well, Regina and Saskatoon are overlaid with CDMA 1900 for additional capacity. CDMA is an interesting technology; my experience is that it sounds a lot worse than GSM, but it allows for greater network capacity. CDMA can hand off to analog, but analog cannot hand off to CDMA.
SaskTel's plans used to be very expensive, but some recent changes (September 2005) have made the plans a lot more competitive.
SaskTel is in the process of setting up EvDO data capability in Regina and Saskatoon. It permits significantly higher upload and download speeds than 1xRTT.
Telus Mobility - Telus has been fairly aggressive in Saskatchewan and is gradually gaining popularity. However, because of its network, I do not recommend it.
The big difficulty is that, although Telus has very interesting high-tech phones, they only support their bells and whistles when in Regina or Saskatoon (or outside the province). This is because Telus actually has no service of its own in Saskatchewan. It uses SaskTel's towers. Unfortunately for Telus, SaskTel is only compelled to allow Telus access to its analog service. To avoid capacity issues in Regina and Saskatoon, it permits Telus customers access to the CDMA 1900 network. As soon as you leave either city, you drop to analog coverage. (Note that non-Saskatchewan Telus customers do get access to the entire digital network, although some Telus phones don't support CDMA 800, which results in the same problem.)
One other disadvantage of this network issue is that all of SaskTel's new towers are digital only. This means that Saskatchewan Telus subscribers have no service in such places as Montmartre, Saskatchewan, where SaskTel subscribers (and Telus ones from outside the province) get perfect digital service.
Fido - was recently purchased by Rogers (see below) and its network was amalgamated with the Rogers network. It uses GSM technology. The basic Fido packages only include service in the original Fido coverage area (in Saskatchewan, Regina and Saskatoon plus Highway 11 between), but for an extra $0.25 per minute or a flat $5 per month, you can have access to the larger Rogers coverage. All towers support both GSM 850 and 1900; a dual-band phone is recommended because the 1900 MHz signal does not work as far from the towers as 850 MHz service does.
Fido's packages are quite innovative and attractively priced. However, some of the Fido advantages (like access to SaskTel's analog network and the excellent $0.10 long distance rate) have disappeared.
Rogers Wireless - Rogers has provided wireless service in the province for as long as SaskTel has. In fact, Rogers had service on the Trans-Canada Highway from border to border before SaskTel did, and had digital service in the province before SaskTel did. Unfortunately, in all other regards, SaskTel has been and continues to be far ahead.
The network covers Highways 1, 11 and 16, plus the Highway 9 corridor from Saskatoon to the Alberta border (this is the route to Calgary from Saskatoon and Prince Albert). There is also coverage from Regina through Weyburn to Estevan (highways 6 and 39). Although the coverage footprint is much smaller than SaskTel's, the practical significance of this is fairly small; I am rarely out of Rogers coverage.
Unfortunately, a couple of the places where coverage does not exist seem somewhat egregious. For example, there is not a tower in Waskesiu (Prince Albert National Park). Interestingly, there is a tower at Clear Lake, Manitoba (Riding Mountain National Park). Since Waskesiu is only an hour's drive away from Saskatoon, and is a very popular destination, why doesn't Rogers put a tower here? Please! There is no service at Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park, either. Highway 48 from White City to Kenosee is right along the fringe of coverage; I get service with my car kit (barely) but a naked handheld phone has no chance.
The entire network is GSM 850 and 1900 but the 850 footprint is noticeably larger than 1900 so make sure that you have a dual band phone. There is also analog service on almost all of the towers, but new towers since 2002 do not support anything but GSM. (Most noticeably this means that you need GSM to get service at Fort Qu'Appelle and the popular nearby cottage areas.) Some of the analog network has been overlaid with TDMA digital service - Regina to Moose Jaw on Highway 1, Saskatoon, and the Highway 9 corridor from Saskatoon to the Alberta border through Kindersley - but TDMA digital users will get analog service anywhere else where Rogers provides service in the province. It was annoying to me to get digital coverage as soon as I got to the Alberta border, when I got analog service in Swift Current, Yorkton, and Prince Albert, but now that the GSM network has been installed, I have calmed down.
You might wonder why I use Rogers when SaskTel's coverage is so much better. Well, I am in a corporate plan that is very good. However, with SaskTel's new rate plans I am giving some thought to switching.
Last updated: September 19, 2005