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Will my phone work in Canada - what you need to know

We explore the factors that will determine if you can.

· 3 min read

Planning a trip to Canada? Ensuring that your phone will work seamlessly in a new country is essential for staying connected, accessing important information, and sharing your experiences with friends and family. You may have heard stories of your friends being unable to use their phones in Canada, and are worried that the same might happen to you.


Why do some phones not work in Canada?

In general, when phones do not work, it is primarily an issue to do with the device being incompatible with the Canadian network.

Canada primarily uses GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) networks, so your phone should be GSM-compatible - which shouldn't be a problem for most modern smartphones today. But aside from simply being GSM-compatible, the frequency bands that your device supports is also a factor that can influence why your phone might not work in Canada. If your device is unable to receive or send signals in the frequency band that is used in Canada, it wouldn't be able to establish connection with the Canadian networks.

Which frequency bands does my phone need to support if I want to use my phone in Canada?

Generally, Canada uses the following frequencies:

  • 3G: 850 MHz & 1700 MHz
  • 4G/LTE: 600 MHz (Band 71), 700 MHz (Band 12, Band 13, Band 17 & Band 29), 850 MHz (Band 5), 1700 MHz (Band 4 & Band 66), 1900 MHz (Band 2) & 2600 MHz (Band 7 & Band 38)
  • 5G NR: 600 MHz (n71), 1700 MHz (n66), 2500 MHz (n41), 2600 MHz (n38) & 3500 MHz (n78)

If you bought your phone from the Americas, chances are that your phone already supports these frequency bands. However, if your phone is purchased from other parts of the world like Asia, Oceania, or Europe, you will need to check that it has Tri-Band or Quad-Band support for you to be able to use your phone in Canada.

How do I check if my phone uses the frequency bands that Canada uses?

You can check if your phone can be used in Canada by using this page by Kimovil. Alternatively, you can check your device's compatibility with the major network operators in Canada. Bell provides an online device-compatibility checker, where you can confirm if your device is compatible with their networks simply by entering your 15-digit IMEI number.

Can I use international roaming in Canada if my device doesn't use the same frequency bands?

Unfortunately not. If your device doesn't support the correct frequency bands, it wouldn't be able to connect with the local networks. It does not matter if you are using a Canadian SIM card or if you are turning on international roaming — it is more a device limitation rather than the SIM card that your phone is unable to establish connection with the networks.

Will I be able to use my phone in Canada as long as it uses the same frequency bands?

Yes, in theory, you will be able to use your phone in Canada as long as it supports the same frequency bands that is used in Canada.

How can I get data and connectivity in Canada?

There are various options to how you can remain connected in Canada, namely:

  • International Roaming
  • Getting a local Canada SIM card
  • Getting a travel SIM card
  • Getting a travel eSIM

Your options to how you can stay connected also depends on a few other factors:

  • Check if your device is unlocked: If your device is carrier-locked, the only way you can get connected is to activate international roaming with your home carrier.
  • Check if your phone is eSIM-compatible: If your device is eSIM-compatible, this opens up an alternative for you to get connected. Data and connectivity in Canada is expensive, and getting a travel eSIM is often a more cost-effective and convenient option for staying connected in Canada.

Read our previous blog post for more information on some of which SIM cards to get in Canada, and how to get them.

The good news is that if your phone is eSIM-compatible, it is almost certainly going to be able to use the same frequency bands in Canada, which means - yes, you will be able to use your phone in Canada!

Get a Nomad travel eSIM for your next trip to Canada

If your device can be used in Canada, and if it supports an eSIM, then you should get a Nomad travel eSIM for your next trip to Canada!

Nomad provides a variety of eSIM data plans for Canada with different data volumes at affordable rates from as low as USD3/GB. Nomad's eSIMs will automatically hook on to the network that provides the best signal strength, so you don't have to worry about the lack of coverage as you travel through Canada.

It's easy to get a Nomad eSIM. Simply create an account on the Nomad Web Store or iOS/Android apps, find a plan that is suitable for your needs, and proceed with the check out! Upon successful purchase, you will receive an email that includes the installation and activation instructions for your plan.

Note that since you will need a stable internet connection to purchase and install your eSIM, it is advised to buy your eSIM before you fly, so that you don't have to worry about not getting connectivity at the airport after landing.

And in case you need a number to send or receive text messages while in Canada, Nomad also offers SMS plans for Canada.