Yesterday’s post on Virgin Mobile’s recent service changes elicited a useful tip from Shane and Million Dollar Journey: Check out Speak Out Wireless, which is offered through 7-Eleven convenience stores, along with Petro-Canada Mobility as an alternative to Virgin Mobile. Speak Out is roughly the same as Petro-Canada Mobility — both piggy-back on the Rogers wireless network and even offer some of the same phone models but any top up at Speak Out lasts a mind-boggling 365 days, compared to 180 days at Petro-Canada.

It turns out that Speak Out is currently running a “Back to School” promotion — $75 off any phone with the purchase of $100 of air time. As readers GSP and Novice points out, depending on your usage, it probably does not make sense to pony up for another new phone as a $100 top up with Virgin Mobile still lasts one year. So, for now, I’ve decided to keep the nicer and newer phone with Virgin Mobile but upgrade the older cell phone that seems to be on its last legs and decided on Speak Out for its long expiry period.

There are two minor drawbacks with Speak Out to be aware of: (1) Top ups can only be purchased at 7-Eleven stores and there aren’t many in the Ottawa area. (2) Compared to a flat 20¢ per minute with Petro-Canada, Speak Out’s rates range from 20¢ to 25¢. Depending on your usage, there may not be much difference between Petro-Canada and Speak Out and either could be a very good choice. Lots of information and feedback can be found in the forums on the Unofficial Speak Out Wireless webpage.

If you tend to call long distance via your cell phone, here’s a tip from reader Brad: get a travel card from Yak, which charges 8.5¢ for long distance within Canada via a toll-free number and 3.5¢ for calls through a local access number. Yak also offers a yakCell service, which allows you to call long-distance through a local access number without having to enter a PIN number.

This article has 16 comments

  1. With the 711 and PetroCanada phones, from what I’ve read, most of them come unlocked. So if you’re travelling you can pick up a local sim card to make cheap local calls.

  2. Thanks for the mention CC. If we had a 7/11 in Newfoundland, I would be all over the free cell phone offer.

  3. One additional note on the long-distance. bit. Best rate I’ve found
    is through a service known as link2voip mobile
    They’re a VOIP provider first but have an
    interesting mobile feature. You dial a number (647 areacode) but the
    number will ring busy. L2v will see the call, call you back and
    prompt you for the number to dial. Very good ld rates, something like
    $0.015 to the us and Canada. Works well.

  4. One dealbraker IMO with Speakout is that you can’t send text messages to short codes. I live in Vancouver where the transit system uses a short code (33333) to tell us when the next bus is coming at a stop. I would not want to be lacking this feature on a cell phone.

  5. For long distance from your cell phone, also have a look at Alligato Mobile ( ). Similar to Yakcel with better rates.

  6. Actually Yak is 3.5 cents from your cell phone (as long as you are within your local calling area and therefore not paying roaming charges) WITHOUT having to dial the local access number or having to enter a pin number. Simply register your cell phone with Yak and they’ll then already know that it is your cell phone that is accessing their service when you dial a long distance call and there is not need to dial a local access number first.

  7. Noel: No, this is not correct. The only cellphones eligible for direct-dial via Yak are Fido phones registered in Toronto. All other customers must use an access number but they won’t need a PIN. If you are dialing direct and expecting to get the Yak rate you will have a nasty surprise on your next bill.

  8. I purchased the petro can plan and just put the sim card into a better unlocked phone i had. You can pick up decent unlocked phones on starting at $25. I use cici lynk at 2.9 cents.

  9. Charles: You’re right. I have a Fido phone and didn’t realize it was restricted to them. I wonder why only Fido phones can work that way. It cannot be something in the network architecture, since Fido utilizes the Rogers system, being owned by them.

  10. It’s not a technology issue. Equal access type LD (direct dial) is technically possible on the mobile voice architecture. It’s an issue of the carriers wanting to control as much of the revenue as possible from their customers and the regulator not mandating equal access LD as it did with landlines.

    Yak does have a dial around service similar to Alligato Mobile. I recall that Canada and US pricing was about the same but pricing to some of the other countries was better on Alligato. I also considered that depending on my usage, I could switch to an unlimited Canada&US plan for $10 with Alligato.

  11. Canadian Capitalist

    Thanks for your comments, everyone. I personally very rarely make LD calls through the cell phone and if I did, I use G3 Telecom’s dial around. The rates are comparable to Yak.

  12. Note that the service provider, Link2VOIP, that Shane mentioned quotes their prices in USD, even though they are based in Edmonton. All credit card transactions to top-up your account appear on your credit card statement as USD converted amounts.

  13. If you are comparing prepaid phone services you might want to reconsider what you think you know. Apparently acting in concert, ALL the low cost providers have intoduced major rate hikes on casual users at about the same time.

    Long expiration times on account balances have thus vanished, so changing carriers is NOT effective countermeasure. For those unfamiliar with this area, there is essentially NO price competition, only a pretense via a plethora of slightly different phones and fronts, masking a near monopoly situation (aka oligopoly), without any serious government action to assure actual competition.

    Their business model evidently presumes consumers are either too dumb or passive to take the ONLY effective action, to complain effusively to their MPs to get THIS business reregulated!

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