About the Cost Difference Between Telus and a Virgin/Line 2 Combo

I performed some simple cost analyses to evaluate the potential savings I might experience if I ditched Telus and went to a combination Virgin mobile data and Line2 app solution.

Here’s the premise. I purchase two services from Telus that they combine into one bill: voice/text and data. What if I split those services between two separate providers: Line2 for voice/text and Virgin for data?

I normally use just under 5 GB of data every month, so that was my starting point. Here’s a how what I pay now would compare to the alternative I’m exploring.

Subscribe to 5, use 5

The scenario in this table is that you subscribe to a plan with Telus that includes up to 5 GB of data, and use just under 5 GB of data.

Services Telus Line 2/Virgin
Can/US Voice/Text $75.00 $15.00
5 GB plan, use 5 GB $45.00 $45.00
Totals $120.00 $60.00

Right off the bat, the Line2/Virgin option is 50% of the cost of the Telus option, but just because the voice/text service is so much cheaper with Line 2. Data costs are equivalent.

If you project that out over 2 years, it’s a total cost of $2880 with Telus, and $1440 with the Line2/Virgin option. That’s $1440 you can do something else with every year.

Subscribe to 5, use 2

There things begin to change is if you use less data than you’re subscribed to. Telus won’t cut you a break. If you manage to stay under 2 GB of data use in a month, though, your costs will actually go down with Virgin.

Services Telus Line 2/Virgin
Can/US Voice/Text $75.00 $15.00
5 GB plan, use 2 GB $45.00 $30.00
Totals $120.00 $45.00

That’s a huge cost saving if you can manage to keep your data use down. What if you generally use less than 2 GB of data, though?

Subscribe to 2, use 2

This scenario explores a subscription to Telus that includes 2 GB of data and involves full use of that data in a month.

Services Telus Line 2/Virgin
Can/US Voice/Text $75.00 $15.00
2 GB plan, use 2 GB $30.00 $30.00
Totals $105.00 $45.00

It’s not a remarkable cost saving with Telus. You’ll still save more than 50% with the Line2/Virgin combo.

When you’re trying to save money by reducing the amount of data in your fixed-data plan though, you accept a tremendous risk: what happens when you go over that data limit?

Subscribe to 2, use 5

This is everyone’s nightmare scenario. For whatever reason you don’t manage your data appropriately and since Canadian mobile companies won’t auto-cap your use, you get hammered for all that extra data.

In this scenario, you subscribe to a 2 GB data plan, but you use 5 GB.

Services Telus Line 2/Virgin
Can/US Voice/Text $75.00 $15.00
2 GB plan, use 5 GB $180.00 $45.00
Totals $205.00 $60.00

Holy crap, what happened there? Telus is disproportionately punitive with its mobile data over-use charges. Whereas Virgin charges $10 per GB for over-use (still a very expensive fee), Telus charges a whopping $50 per GB for over-use.

So in this scenario where you would have expected a bill totalling $105 from Telus, you would have instead received a swift kick in the pants totalling $205. That’s an astonishing $150 in data over-use penalties.

The lesson in this last scenario: fixed data tiers, as most of us have with carriers like Telus, are dangerous. Flexible, pay-per-use plans like the one Virgin offers for its tablet users, are more transparent and provide a greater degree of clarity in terms of expected fees.

Wait: do we even need phone numbers?

That’s the obvious question to ask at this point. Facebook, Snapchat, Google, Apple – every major technology company now offers free global voice and video communication services. So why do we still cling to the phone?

Why do we even bother with the antiquated notion that some people, in some parts of the world, can phone us at a particular number for an uncertain and unclear sum of money when they can instead FaceTime us for free.

If you need to make a phone call, Facebook, Google and a slew of other free apps will let you directly call telephone numbers for free.

Sure, phone numbers offer a certain degree of standardization. But letting someone know they can reach you on FaceTime versus by calling 555-867-1111 isn’t really any less convenient.

This is the question I’m wrestling with right now for my son: he never uses the telephone capability of his iPhone and I’m paying over $60 a month to Telus for it. It doesn’t make sense. He would be fine with just data and no phone number at all.

Come to think of it, so might I. Moving over to pure data, no phone, on my iPhone might just be the right solution.

About mobile data costs in Canada

Screen Shot 2017-09-28 at 5.20.50 PM

I’m analyzing data costs across mobile telecommunications carriers in Canada, following up on a post I wrote almost 2 years ago, “About Hacking Your Phone Bill to Save a Ton of Money“. I’m planning on buying myself out of my Telus contract when the iPhone X comes out, not getting a carrier voice plan, instead going pure VOIP on that device.

I’m looking for where the best value is on mobile data-only plans with Canadian carriers.  Here are my key findings:

  • Telus is mid-priced up to the 5 GB level, then gets ridiculous with its $50/GB over-use penalties.
  • Public Mobile is surprisingly expensive.
  • Ice Wireless is the cheapest but the quality of that company’s internet service is so poor I would recommend against using it.
  • Virgin Mobile is the best value and has relatively low cost. As a current customer I can vouch for the high quality of the internet service and their data costs are almost equivalent to Ice Wireless.

In closing, I’d recommend Virgin Mobile for data-only mobile purposes. For example, it’s the best option for ditching a mobile phone line and moving over to a VOIP option.

Side note: Why isn’t Bell on here? Because Bell is pure evil (“Bell Calls for CRTC-Backed Website Blocking System and Complete Criminalization of Copyright in NAFTA“) and I won’t consider them for conscientious reasons.

(Yes, I know Virgin is a subsidiary of the Evil Bell. But so is Northwestel. I’m already using one of the devil’s little brothers, why not use another?)