@sheytoon - awesome - thanks very much!! This is the kind of added detail my "IT guy" brain needs to make sense of it. The generic "Carrier XYZ is better" comments don't do it for me unfortunately.
So in regards to the "very location-specific" comment - being where I am in Calgary - I guess I've just been in a sweet spot for all of the carriers (sounds like it might be the same in your area of the GTA), because I honestly haven't experienced any noticeable differences between them. Interesting. I guess I'll count myself lucky to be where I am, because it sounds like it gives me more choice. Hopefully we can get some more competition in Canada eventually and make it so everyone has more choice! 🙂
No worries. I'm sure even in Calgary, if you are in a basement or underground parking lot, you will notice coverage difference between the providers.
"Coverage" in the old sense is still valid, though much less than it used to be.
In Canada there's basically the big Rogers network, the bigger shared Telus+Bell+SaskTel network(s), and the little Shaw network. The Big Three (Rogers, Telus+Bell) basically have "coverage" approaching 100% of Canada's population centers. There are still some areas where one network provides "coverage" where other networks do not. There are still many areas where multiple network "coverage" overlaps but one network provides stonger, better, clearer signal than the others. (Not calling out any particular network here, specifics vary all over the place.)
Basic talk and text coverage is routine stuff now. The commodity is data. Especially fast data. So "coverage" usually emphasizes how wide the fast data network has spread, it's why whenever you look at "coverage" maps you see how proudly the networks advertise their latest and fastest generations of mobile data deployment.
I don't consider "coverage" a meaningful measure when it comes to mobile data, though. Because they always advertise how wide the "coverage" is but they never advertise how dense the "coverage" is. You might find yourself inside the "coverage" area but getting a small fraction of shared data bandwidth because many users are demanding few network (radio) resources. Real service (reliability, data speed, etc) is better with distributed landline-wireless access points on nearly every rooftop instead of a couple stations strategically placed on faraway mountain tops, even if a map suggests they provide the same "coverage".
You can always check out the cell tower map. Beware that not all cellular towers are equal - some are mighty antennae arrays mounted on huge radio masts, others are basically just fancy little wireless repeaters stuck onto signposts. And of course radio towers are directional as often as not, plus their signals are affected by all sorts of local terrains or structures or conditions, so it's not as simple as drawing a nice omnidirectional circular range around each one.
I know little about Freedom but have heard comments that led me to believe maybe some of their plans include roaming on other carriers when needed while other plans do not include this? If this were the case maybe your comparison had the Freedom phone roaming onto the other carrier as you headed out of Calgary making coverage look identical where as if your phone was locked to just Freedom that phone might have been out of service much sooner?
If your calls are from Freedom zones to Freedom zones then they're hard to beat. If you're a monster data user inside a Freedom zone then they're hard to beat. If you (or the people you call, or the people who call you) aren't in Freedom zones then costs can add up.
They're constantly adapting and evolving and juggling their plans and prices and offers around. If you're lucky and have good timing then you can score a fantastic deal ... as long as you stay in the zone.
I was previosly on Rogers (in Saskatchewan) until a couple years ago sure they had HSPA and LTE in Regina & Saskatoon, but outside of those areas it was EDGE only, and even then only along hwy 1, 16, 11. It was tolerable for what seemed like good plan prices compared to SaskTel, and a corp discount (usually 30% off any posted plan). Rogers later deployed 700mhz on all their rural towers (2016?) And their other bands in town like a month before SaskTel was live for a marketing stunt... then Rogers folk also got the "extended" network coverage which basically allowed domestic roaming on SaskTel... but it was 3G, not HSPA+, you'd be lucky to get 700kbps - and it was super annoying in fringe areas because the phone kept searching and trying to stay on the barely available Rogers signal... meanwhile your phone has no connection unless you force a network search and pick the -ext network manually...
Those symptoms sound very similar to what Freedom mobile users experience on the fringe of their network as well...
Anyhow it was fun while it lasted but it's nice now with PM to just have a more seamless "RAN" Telus network even though it's really sasktel's network. A year ago the cheapest plan would have started at $75 and no more Saskatchewan discount, so I puked and found public mobile! 🙂
SaskTel does have "unlimited" data with an astonishing 2Mbps throttle. "Unlimited". In Saskatchewan, anyhow.
Compare vs 3Mbps "3G Speed" at PM (and at Bell/Virgin/Lucky, Fido/Chatr, Telus/Koodo).