If you're familiar with the Canadian telco scene, you might be aware that TELUS owns two discount providers: a Tier 2 known as Koodo and a Tier 3 known as Public Mobile.
TELUS started Koodo in 2008 with an emphasis on no-fixed-term-contracts, plans starting at $15, and no hidden fees. To allow phones to be subsidized they implemented a "tab" which was effectively a loan for the phone that could simply be paid off if you wanted to leave.
Public Mobile on the other hand was an independent carrier which started in 2010 and was acquired by TELUS in 2013. Just in case you're curious, here are what their old plans looked like way back in 2011:
While today's Koodo bares many resemblences to the Koodo of years past, Public Mobile has transitioned quite heavily.
Obviously we're well past the period where people were willing to pay $10 for text messages or $5 for call display. In fact, it's generally expected that those are included for free. These days, for the majority of people it's all about the data.
Without further ado, let's take a look at the prepaid plans offered by both Koodo and Public Mobile:
A few things that stand out right away:
Ignoring the embarrassing Koodo offerings at $15/25, the remainder of the prepaid plans compare the way you might expect. Koodo costs a little more but gives 4G data. Since Koodo has phone callback support and physical stores/kiosks, the $5/month premium for the bulk of the offerings isn't too far out of whack.
No overages - Neither have overages. Buy an addon if you want more stuff: if not, you'll just pay the cost of the plan.
Selection of addons - Both have addons for extra Canada-wide minutes (for the $15/month plan since other plans are already unlimited), for extra data, for long distance, and for USA roaming (talk/text/data). Most are non-expiring. There are some subtle differences which are worth knowing though, and which might sway you to either Koodo or Public. More on that shortly.
Data usage notifications (maybe) - Public Mobile sends you a text when you hit 75% and 95% of your included plan data. Koodo mentions that Shock-Free® Data sends notifications at 50/90/100% of our data usage, but data on the prepaid plans technically isn't called Shock-Free® Data so it's unclear whether it applies.
Long distance availability - Using addons, Public Mobile allows long-distance calling to 41 countries and Koodo allows long-distance to 50 countries.
US roaming - Both have the USA as the only country you can roam in. This is done via 10-day addons for Public Mobile, and via non-expiring addons for Koodo.
Extra data when using auto top-up - You receive an extra 500 MB/month on all Public Mobile plans, and on $30+ Koodo plans.
Straightforward online activation with the ability to port your number - Activation process is identical. Get a SIM, go through the process, do your initial top up. Done.
No activation fee - As long as you activate online, there is no fee (Koodo may charge if activating in-store).
Community forums - Each has a community forum.
The TELUS network - Both plans utilize the TELUS network (and Bell network where applicable).
Neither prepaid options have access to 5G, VoLTE, or VoWifi - Technically Koodo offers VoLTE and VoWifi on the post-paid plans, although it's restricted to certain phones. Users of prepaid plans are out of luck.
Referral bonuses - Koodo friend referrals will garner you a $10 bonus (to a max of $120/year) and your friend gets a $10 bonus too. Public Mobile friend referrals will garner you a $1/month discount for as long as your friend remains a customer (no limit although it can not reduce your monthly balance owed below $0), and a one time $10 bonus goes to your friend.
Monthly plans are cheaper - In every situation you get more data for your money with Public Mobile.
Cheaper data addons - Public Mobile charges $5/$15 for 200MB/1GB of extra data. Koodo charges $10/$20/$30 for 100MB/500MB/1GB. This means Koodo costs 2x to 4x as much.
Cheaper Canada-wide talk addon (applicable to the $15/month plan only) - Public Mobile charges $5 for 500 minutes of extra talk time. Koodo charges $10/$20/$30 for 100/250/600 minutes. There is no hypothetical situation in which Koodo is cheaper, and ultimately Koodo costs approximately 5x as much.
Cheaper long distance - Koodo's best value long distance addon ($30) gives 300 minutes which translates to $0.10/minute. Public Mobile long distance addons are $15 and work out to be $0.015/minute to $0.05/minute with the one exception being the addon package to the Philippines ($15 for 100 minutes, which is $0.15/minute).
Cheaper US roaming if you need unlimited talk/text and/or more than 250MB during a trip of 10 days or less - To be fair, we're getting pretty specific here. To make things a little clearer, Public Mobile has 10-day packages for unlimited talk ($8), text ($8), and 250MB/500MB/1GB data ($10/$15/$20). Alternately a talk/text/250MB bundle for $20. These do expire after the 10 day period. Koodo on the other hand has non-expiring addons: $5/$20 for 25/250 minutes of talk, $5/$20 for 250/1000 texts, and $5/$20 for 50MB/500MB data.
More discounts on Public Mobile - In addition to the referral benefit previously mentioned, there is a 5% reward program, staying with Public Mobile gets you 10 points ($10 currently) and there are additional discounts available if you're active in the community forums. So your already-cheaper plan gets even cheaper.
4G data speeds - If you need fast data, you need fast data.
Customer support over the phone - You can use the online system to trigger a callback if you need to talk to someone to resolve an issue. However it's worth noting that if you call in regards to something you can do yourself via the online system (change your plan, change your number, inquire about your balance, etc), you may be hit with a $10 fee. Public Mobile on the other hand does not have any customer support available via the phone.
eSIM support - Koodo supports this, Public Mobile does not. However, an eSIM can only be obtained in-store.
Cheaper US roaming if you make at least 3 trips, yet in each 10-day period you average less than 83 minutes, less than 333 texts, and less than 166 MB - Okay, I proably could have worded that better.... Because Koodo's US roaming add-ons don't expire, they work really well if you just need a tiny bit of usage each trip. If you're great at minimizing your usage while travelling, each addon package can last you multiple trips. However, note that the 83 minute / 333 text / 166MB values are based upon you purchasing each of the $20 addons (if you need voice, text, and data that's a $60 hit) and there's some flexibility there (use 50% of the texts but 50% more minutes and it evens out in the long run). If you instead purchase the $5 addons, you usage each trip has to be quite a bit smaller to be advantageous: you're better off buying the $20 addons unless your usage is so tiny that the $5 addons will last you ages. One other benefit to the Koodo roaming addons: you do not have to add the package the day you leave, as there is no 10-day timer to worry about - just make sure you add it at some point before your trip.
Post-paid plans available if your needs change - Most of the post-paid plans are actually a bit better than the pre-paid variants, and due to the "Shock-Free®" data on most plans, the risk of accidentally running up massive overage fees is low... Exception here is the $15/month post-paid plan which is limited to 100 minutes talk time with overages of $0.70/minute. Obviously if you travel out of country or make long distance calls on any post-pay plan you carry additional risks there too.
Addons for long distance are more simple and apply to 9 more countries - The Koodo long distance addon is simple: buy minutes and those minutes apply to any of the 50 countries Koodo allows long distance to. With Public Mobile, you need to buy addons for specific destinations - USA long distance is a separate package from UK long distance, yet another of the long distance addon packages includes 32 countries. Public Mobile can get a bit irritating if you have to buy a $15 addon to make a 2 minute call to a specific country you'll never ever call again. Koodo avoids that by having a 1-size-fits-all long distance addon.
If you can get by with 3G data, you get more of it.
If you want the most bang for your buck, Public Mobile has it.
If considering $15 or $25 prepaid plans, Koodo's are so poor that Public Mobile is a no-brainer.
If you will make use of addons, Public Mobile's are almost always cheaper.
If you make heavy use of your phone while roaming in the US, Public Mobile is far cheaper when you start pushing lots of US talk/text/data.
If you need 4G data, Koodo has plans with it.
If you want the ability to talk to customer service on the phone or visit a store, both of those are non-options with Public Mobile.
If you don't use your phone much while in the US, the non-expiring roaming addons Koodo provides will cost you much less in the long run.
If you need to use an eSIM, you've found something Public Mobile doesn't support.
If US roaming and long distance aren't factors, chances are that for most people it will boil down to:
If US roaming and long distance ARE factors, which of these carriers make sense will depend entirely on the specific use case.
Ultimately, my suspicion is that the majority of people will gravitate towards Public Mobile. Koodo's low end is simply too weak, and their postpaid offerings tend to beat out their prepaid on the medium/high end. The prepaid addons are a great fit for a specific use case, but unless they happen to perfectly fit someones needs like a glove, chances are Koodo won't be in the running when shopping prepaid. And that's unfortunate because Koodo isn't that far off from having a solid prepaid line-up.
Have you decided to go with Public Mobile? Click here to head back to the main page for a referral code to receive a $10 credit!