For the last two days I have been in Canada for a little sightseeing and a chance to meet GuruDaniel and TheCellularGuru. I’m going to be in Canada for a total of 10 days and could not imagine life in a foreign country without data access on my BlackBerry Tour 9630, however with Verizon’s reputation to hammer its subscribers with high bills and hidden fees, I was afraid I would have to give up data for a few days in favor of forking hundreds of dollars over to Big Red. I automatically did what anyone looking for answers would do: I Googled it. I was brought to Verizon’s website which had some answers but still things were unclear. I found out that I could take the pay-as-you-go option which would charge me $2.06 per MB, or there was from what I understood, an “unlimited international email” package for an extra $35 tacked onto my existing $30 per month data plan. After reading this I went into my local Verizon store and talked to one of the reps there. Basically, the people in the store had absolutely no clue what’s going on. I spent about an hour waiting to talk to someone only to be told that they thought I was correct about using the unlimited international email plan and that it should cover all data use, but they could not turn it on in-store and I would have to call Verizon’s customer service. I also inquired about blocking texting, to which the rep responded that “I could only block it if I blocked each individual number.”
With that information I left, a bit frustrated, mind you, and called customer service as soon as possible. I talked to an extremely informed and polite agent who told me that I didn’t have to fork up a full $35 for data roaming if I was only going to be in Canada for ten days. Instead, I could pay about $2 per day and have unlimited data (with a 5GB cap of course) just as I do in the States, she also told me I could turn off texting for my 10-day stay to avoid the $0.20 per message fee. Any calls made would still cost $0.69 per minute so I’ve been trying to use actual phone function sparingly. I went with what she said and told her to turn on International data roaming for my ten-day stay and to also block texting during that time. I collected her name as well so if anything went awry when I got my bill at the end of the month I could hunt her down.
Immediately upon crossing the border the triangle roaming indicator popped up on my phone and I was officially using either Bell’s or Telus’ CDMA network. As far as coverage goes, it’s been fairly adequate. I’ve had 3G most of the time on the EVDO network and speeds have been decent. Latency however, has been fairly awful, but CDMA is known for it’s high latency and I have always had similar issues on my Tour even in my home network. Canada’s CDMA carriers also have been pushing users towards their new HSPA and HSPA+ networks so their maintenance attention may not be as focused on their CDMA networks as it once was.
Overall the experience has been acceptable and for just $2 a day for “unlimited” data, I can’t complain too much. Text messaging has been substituted with SMS through Google Voice and I had hoped to use Skype for any calling home I needed to do, but unfortunately it doesn’t work outside the United States. Having data access while traveling has been completely invaluable—allowing navigation, BBM to the Gurus, and messaging to people back home. For now everything seems to be going according to plan, but the bill at the end of the month will be the real tell-all as to whether things went as planned. I’ll update this post with some post-bill results when I get them.