Buying a mobile phone and/or phone plan

Mobile phone companies offer many different packages and plans for students. Most companies offer a pay-as-you go option and an annual contract option. In Ontario, there are a number of companies to choose from, including but not limited to: 


To set up an account or purchase a phone in-person, visit the provider at their store. You should present your government-issued photo identification (e.g. passport) and a proof of address. Some providers will run your credit score to verify that you have good credit and pay your bills on time. If you don't have any credit history, or have a bad credit history, the company may place restrictions on your mobile phone usage or may not offer you a phone.

Getting a Canadian phone number while in quarantine

If you are required to quarantine, you won't be able to visit a mobile phone provider in person until your  quarantine is over. Consider adding an international plan before departing for Canada so you can use your cellphone upon arrival, or sign up for a pay-as-you-go (prepaid) plan. These plans don't require visiting a store or providing any other documentation. Follow these steps:  

  1. Review and decide which service provider and pre-paid plan best fits your needs.  
  2. Purchase a SIM card through the provider's website and have it mailed to your quarantine address.  
    • In most cases, you should be able to do this before departing Canada and the provider will mail your SIM card within three business days.  
  3. Activate the SIM card and pay-as-you-go plan online while quarantining.


An eSIM, short for embedded SIM, is a digital SIM that lets you activate a cellular service and an associated phone number and plan without having to use a physical SIM card. 

All major telecom brands in Canada offer deals on eSim. Bell’s eSim packages can be activated by visiting their website, scanning their given QR code and following the instructions. Overall, the process should only take a few minutes. On the other hand, a Rogers eSim plan can be activated by calling them or visiting a store. If you call them, you will receive an eSim in the mail, and follow their instructions. Recently, Shaw eSim support was introduced for all compatible devices in Canada. Make sure to visit their website and follow their instructions, or give them a call and ask about eSims. Finally, a Telus eSim can be activated by navigating through your settings and scanning a certain QR code. As the three largest providers in Canada, it is no surprise that they offer such seamless processes for installing eSim. 

On top of the major telecom companies, many smaller brands within the country have also started offering eSim packages. Currently, customers with Fido, Freedom Mobile, Koodo, Virgin Plus and Lucky Mobile can all enjoy eSim technology. All you need to do is visit their websites or contact them directly to get it set up!  

Calling Cards

Calling cards are pre-paid telephone credits that you can use to phone anywhere in the world. They are usually available in $2.50, $5, $10 and $20 denominations. Calling cards are a cost-effective way of communicating with your contacts outside of Canada.

Calling cards can be purchased in grocery stores and convenience stores, including International News in the Student Life Centre (SLC). Instructions for use are found on the back of each card. Remember, you can always use Skype and other online tools to communicate with your family and friends back home.

Getting internet access

If you live in Waterloo Residences or study on campus, you’ll have access to Waterloo’s wireless internet service (WIFI). Follow the steps listed for University of Waterloo staff, faculty, students to connect to Eduroam. 

If you live off-campus, you may have to pay monthly fees to have internet service at home. Bell and Rogers are the two largest internet service providers in Waterloo, however other companies offer competitive pricing. Since all the companies offer comparable services, you’ll have to look into which one best suits your needs. Prices range from $50 to $200 per month, based on which internet package you purchase.