How good is Freedom Mobile’s LTE network?

By: Ted Kritsonis

February 17, 2017

 

The carrier formerly known as Wind Mobile rebranded as Freedom Mobile at the same time it launched its own LTE network in November 2016 in Toronto and Vancouver, so how good is it three months in?

It got off to a rough start initially, with customers reporting they weren’t seeing LTE connections, but things have gotten better since. The constant caveat for this LTE network is that it runs on AWS-3, otherwise known as Band 66, which has little support up to now.

Network rollout

Freedom (then Wind) had acquired it through government wireless spectrum auctions for Ontario, Alberta and B.C. Rolling out the network will cost an estimated $250 million, staggering it out through the Greater Toronto and Greater Vancouver areas first up to this spring, followed by Calgary, Edmonton and Ottawa by the summer. Southwestern and southeastern Ontario would cap things off in the fall.

The same “Home” and “Away” zones apply. Venturing into an Away zone onto another carrier’s network costs $0.15/minute of talk, $0.05 per text and $0.05 per megabyte of data. It doesn’t include the Everywhere Talk and Text Freedom offers on other plans.

Roaming in the U.S. on LTE networks there will be opened up in the spring, likely through AT&T or Verizon, who both own Band 66 spectrum too. Those on 3G plans will continue to access 3G when roaming, and will also act as a fallback for LTE customers.

Despite the limitations, the monthly plan is compelling. Until Feb. 22, Freedom is offering its LTE plan for $35/month, switching to $45/month after 10 months. It includes unlimited calling to Canada and the U.S. There is 3GB of data already in there, but another 3GB is tacked on for a total of 6GB, except that will expire on January 31, 2018. Freedom says there will be “different offers and plans available” customers can choose from, but has not elaborated on what those might look like.

Even at $45, that is a fraction of what a similar plan would cost with one of the Big 3. For example, a Rogers Share Everything plan with 5GB of data is $115/month. With Telus, a similar plan with 2.5GB of data is $100/month. Bell has a 5GB Share plan that costs $125/month.

The discrepancy is huge, except there’s another current roadblock. As of this review, only the LG V20 and ZTE Grand X 4 are capable of running on Freedom’s LTE network. That is poised to change as newer devices are launched this year, where Band 66 could be included in a number of flagship devices, including the Samsung Galaxy S8 and LG G6, among others. What about the iPhone? We won’t know until Apple launches the next one.

Network performance

Freedom’s LTE network is like a highway that has one or two cars on it. Congestion is not a problem and speed isn’t constrained too much by traffic. I was only able to test the network in the GTA, so am not sure how well it currently operates in Vancouver. I did, however, test it with both compatible phones.

Far from being a scientific experiment, my testing was largely a collection of many anecdotes to ascertain connectivity and note any patterns. For instance, Freedom’s 3G network is plagued by poor reception indoors, largely because AWS-3 doesn’t penetrate walls very well.

Band 66 seems to be far more consistent. There were instances where I was getting better coverage indoors in downtown Toronto than I was with Fido or Bell. Other times, it was the opposite. Even when it was, reception was never terrible enough to ruin a browsing session or drop a call.

Still, there were indications coverage needs a little work. Random drops down to 4G would happen at various times, lowering the connection to 3G+ speeds.

Latency on LTE was quite low, usually between 17-21 milliseconds. Download speeds consistently topped 50Mbps, though the average was slightly lower — about 48.62Mbps — which is more than competitive compared to the Big 3. The heart of downtown Toronto skewed upwards toward 60Mbps, whereas the fringes of the current LTE coverage area could drop down to 40Mbps.

As good as it is, Bell’s network is super fast by comparison, topping 100Mbps in the same areas. Even averaged down, the final tally doubles what Freedom can deliver. However, that’s largely the case with Bell (or probably Telus, which uses the same network too). Fido, which uses Rogers’ network, fell short of Freedom in several locations. In others, it was on par or better.

One benefit of Freedom’s network compared to all others is access in Toronto’s subway stations. LTE connectivity was excellent in downtown core stations, though it doesn’t extend north of Dupont or Rosedale, east of Sherbourne or west of High Park. Freedom says it will be expanding the footprint futher in the coming months, but no firm timetable or deadline has been confirmed.

Moving forward

Freedom’s LTE network will rest on future support, which should come in greater numbers this year, but there are other features that would help. Wi-Fi Calling, which would negate any reception issues when connected to a Wi-Fi network, would make a real difference. Calls, texts and picture messages transfer over Wi-Fi under such a feature, which also works really when travelling abroad.

Freedom has only said that it is “working with phone manufacturers to include the feature as standard in mid to high-end phones” the carrier sells. VoLTE (Voice over LTE) is another feature that is reportedly coming, improving voice quality for calls.

It’s unclear how more congestion might affect Freedom’s new network, but it’s probably a good bet that performance will be similar to how competitors operate.

For now, though, it’s a pretty good start, and a far cry from the nagging issues the 3G network suffers from. With only two phones currently compatible, the most popular models have yet to jump onboard, but with more choice and a monthly cost well below the competition, Freedom may be appealing to more than a few defectors.


36 comments

  1. xpbat011@yahoo.ca'
    Darko

    I recently upgraded to a new LTE plan and a new phone. I am constantly getting calls going straight voicemail and ‘Missed call’ messages, both in my office (downtown Toronto) and at home (Forrest Hill).

    Never had an issue with my old Nexus 5 on G3 network.

  2. Alex.evens61@gmail.com'

    Its not great,
    Promises didn’t follow!
    NO LTE.
    And speed is not much different than 4G and signal on DT Calgary in some building completely off
    .. 4G everywhere losing signal most times.

    And I’m using Samsung 8+.
    When I did get the phone
    They promised LTE servise ..
    but still 4G.
    !!!then I receive text messages
    With offering me pay extra monthly..
    So
    Strength…

  3. Brian.a.taylor118@gmail.com'
    Brian

    LTE= Lower The Expectations! If it won’t work downtown Calgary it won’t work anywhere in Calgary. A total waste of your money.

  4. moma.dukes@hotmail.com'
    Dianne

    their service works only if you do not have an iPhone, lg phone works good, mine is an iPhone 6 and I can not use iMessage and no service, because apple does not support freedom mobile. But on their website were you check your phones compatibility put in your serial number is says its compatible, but it is not, and they told me too it was.

    The deals are great, they say iPhones will be available from them in December, so ill wait and see if it gets better then.

  5. Guy@hotmail.com'
    Guy

    *3rd World Prices, Coverage & Customer Service*

    But 3gb data, unlimited talk & text for $39 after taxes makes it tolerable.

  6. nrich064638@gmail.com'
    Rich

    I’ve been extremely disappointed with Freedom. When I first signed with freedom (before LTE) they told me my Note 5 would be able to use LTE when it became available if I signed on for their freedom 55 plan. When LTE came to Calgary I contacted them and they told me I had to get one of their LTE ready phones to use it. So I spent $1000 for the S8 and had to upgrade to the $59 plan.

    After all this I barely get LTE, mostly just 4g and apps and internet have long pauses or won’t load until I close the app and restart it again. That’s not even the worst part. I can’t consistently receive calls in my own home with full bars, sometimes calls go through and sometimes they dont. I would get a prompt saying I missed a call from so and so, even when the phone is right beside me, no ring, no nothing.

    I contacted freedom tech support and they have no clue on how to resolve this. They keep telling to do the same think over and over again. Enter ##21# to cancel call forwarding. Doesn’t work! 3 missed call this morning.

    My patience is almost spent. I originally switched to freedom to try and save some money but their networks are garbage compared to the big 3. Still the same crap Wind, just a new name. Save yourself the time, hassle and headache and stay with your original carrier, you’ll get better, faster and dependable service.

    Rich from Calgary

  7. davidclt@hotmail.com'
    Enrique C

    I’ve been with windmobile now Freedom mobile since 2012, after Rogers taking so much money from me in overcharges, and spending countless hours fighting with customer service, for their billing mistakes, I dicided enough was enough. Tried Fido for a while until they started the same path as Rogers I decided to give windmobile a try.

    It was a rocky start, but things how improved so much from the early days, reception more consistent, even at a part of hwy 401 by the Airport where I used to drop calls when using Fido. LTE connection it’s excellent even if once in a while drops to 3g. When I’m traveling in Ontario i I just switch to an away network if needed. Very happy with service.
    Just got loyalty retention to switch my plan to everywhere 59 for the promo price of $50 a month will now have 8gs of data a month plus 1gb within Canada or USA.
    Happy to be part of the competition in favor of better cellular pricing.

  8. parteek31@hotmail.com'
    P

    Hey Nathan Myers,

    I understand what you’re saying, BUT I think myself and many other people were mislead by the sales representatives in the Freedom Mobile shops.

    I was promised pristine network connections and high speed internet, and just like everyone else, it has been a pain so far.

    I’m in the GTA, and my phone will have full reception, and I constantly get texts messages saying that I missed a call. The LTE, I found, is fine if you’re not inside of a building or in a basement. Google Maps tends to work reasonably well with Freedom’s LTE.

    I’ll need to switch over to Telus or Rogers now, as Freedom Mobile really isn’t meant for adults who need a reliable mobile connection, but more for high school students who need access to WhatsApp and other messaging apps that require a phone number.

  9. singerskates@gmail.com'
    Brigitte Laskowski

    Freedom Mobile has got to make their LTE coding available to download to Freedom BYOD customers, once they purchase one of their LTE plans.

  10. geo.layug@gmail.com'
    Geo

    I don’t know why the majority of the comments are against Freedom Mobile, I’ve been with them for 1 year and so far everything has been great, minor connection issues every once in a while but not enough to constantly miss calls or texts, just switched my plan to the $59 LTE plan and got an LG G6 so far the data is fast, it hit a max of 90Mbps in North York. One thing I agree with though is that their customer support sucks, mostly rude undertrained people.

  11. slamers777@gmail.com'
    Sharon L

    HORRIBLE COMPANY. I REPEAT HORRIBLE COMPANY. I tried Freedom return the phone in less than 24 hours. They do not provide the coverage they claim to provide. Even though they have away coverage they don’t. I called to complain right away and they said it would take 3-5 business days to get their partner provider to fix the issue. I returned the phone the next day and canceled the plan. 2 weeks later I received an invoice for the phone claiming they have no proof that it was returned. I am the one who had to run around to prove I canceled and returned the phone. HORRIBLE.

  12. sfloflo@ymail.com'
    Sandy

    Freedom mobile services are terrible. This is the worse company ever. The internet and communication are not working every where in Calgary and the internet is really slow, I went outside of Calgary which is 40 mn away, I could not make any calls and there was no signal. I lost for about 1 hour just because of that terrible company, I could not do nothing with my cell phone. Specially, when I am in the basement I can’t make any calls except emergency, even I got out of the basement I have to wait for 15 to 20 minutes before I can make a call. I can’t wait to pay my phone off to get out of all the freedom mobile”s headache. But I have a good experience with customer services.

  13. donald.fbulu@o2.pl'
    donald

    I was with Windmobile for many years but in 2014 the phone talk quality was so bad that I cancelled contract and paid to Windmoblie 300 dollars for breaking the contract when it was them who broke the contract. I need to get another phone and I was thinking about switching to freedomobile. After reading through all the comments I decided that I am not going to choose them. Thank you everybody for postings your opinions here. And anyway windmobile/freedomobile was free to grab from me 300 dollars they did not deserve.

  14. alex.gardot@gmail.com'
    Alex

    Used Freedom for a trial run to see how good/bad the connection was and they were worse than expected. I lost connection frequently while at home in Toronto and could not reliably make phone calls. It would often switch networks while in one location as I didn’t get reception. While working in Brampton, the reception was almost unusable.

    I would just like to add that on top of the poor network performance, the customer service gave me a hassle cancelling the service even within the 15 days grace period. They are not setup properly yet, I would not recommend switching unless you have the patience for dealing with disruptions in what I would consider an essential part of life nowadays.

  15. brousseauben1@gmail.com'
    Ben

    I got my first phone at the end of grade 7 and with Wind Mobile it was great, once a week I lost coverage but it was only for a few seconds and it didn’t bother me much. However, when they switched to Freedom Mobile I don’t know what they did but something messed up, I live in Ottawa and it says that the entire city is covered but half of the time i don’t even get coverage in my house. Trust me when I say this, the fact that you get unlimited calling and texting + 4gb of data for 40$ a month doesn’t mean that you’ll actually get it half the time. If this plan is for your son’s/daughter’s first phone its great and being around that age when you first learn the importance of money its great but after that you might want to consider something a bit more reliable. If you have enough patience it works.

  16. Julejewels990@gmail.com'
    Julie

    Horrible service. I live in Toronto and lose service just during my small daily commute and in certain areas like the Eaton centre. My texts NEVER send/ are never delivered. Phone calls are muffled usually.
    The data is pretty good. I used to have a lot of troubles with it, but got that fixed.
    Over all would not recommend freedom mobile.

  17. nathan1myer@gmail.com'
    Nathan Myers

    First of all – you all need to ‘read to comprehend’ instead of writing as a backlash. Most of these comments are correct, there are definitely network connectivity issues, but it lies in the different type of network Freedom has compared to the Big 3. AWS -3 or Band 66. This is the type of network supported by At&T and Verizon in the states but NOT by the big 3 here in Canada.

    If you all want to see what Freedom’s service will be like in the future as more coverage and support becomes available in this country, than I’d advise you to make a run to the states and roam onto AT&T’s network. It is seamless, I made the run from Detroit to NC and never lost service once, and experienced what the network WILL be like here in Canada.

    All of you seem to forget the early days of Rogers and Bell when their networks were shoddy as well. For the price I pay for complete coverage in Canada and the US @ $55 dollars per month, I am getting exactly what I expected FOR NOW and am happy.

    Yes, I lose service as I run the 401 between Kitchener and London, but its because You switch from the Home Network to the Away Network, and because the networks are DIFFERENT, I expected this to be an issue and was prepared for it. Yes, its kind of annoying, but I don’t blame Freedom, its called growing pains.
    I just manually roam to an away network which takes all of 1.5 minutes, and then I’m good.

    If you aren’t prepared to put up with the growing pains of a brand new — soon to be state of the art network — cool, but stop complaining. # 1st world problems.

    I’ve gone from paying 115+ each month to $62 everything all in, and I have more data and can roam in the states at now extra cost. Yeah I’m good with my new service provider and am happy to wait for the all the bugs to be worked out.

  18. brittanany@hotmail.com'
    Britt

    Being with them was an awful decision! Like everyone else has said – their coverage is bad. They give you the option to pay for roaming so you can get service anywhere (I opted for that) but what they don’t tell you is that their service map is not at all accurate. If your phone is in a ‘home’ area you may still not get serivce and it’s programmed to not roam….so your phone just stops working.
    Even cancelling my plan with them took 3 days because they took so long to port my number over. Then they called collections on me even though I had given them a pre-auth credit and had a confirmation date of when it would be taken out.
    To top it off, their customer service is awful.
    Please don’t put yourself through it!

  19. zetouni@ualberta.ca'
    Nikolas Zetouni

    Freedom mobile is the worst provider I ever dealt with. I bought a new phone with them (Samsung A5) and the representative “forgot” they had a $200 off deal if activating with one of the new plans. Upon his suggestion, I kept my old plan, which made me pay $200 more for the phone and be hooked with them for 2 years, paying $15 extra per month on their so called tab plan.

    Once the same rep set up my phone, he used a new network configuration, but because I followed his advice, my old plan only worked on the old network configuration. Meaning, I barely could receive phone calls and txts for 3 months! Every time I called them to troubleshoot the issue, they gave me some codes to use in the phone and the issue persisted. I had to go to 3 different stores to talk to 3 different representatives till one finally figured out the network error.

    Of course I wanted compensation. Their irresponsibility costed 3 months of possible jobs (which is a big deal for a person who was unemployed). When calling their customer service, they only offered $20 off my next bill. I asked to escalate the issue and then they only offered $50 off on my next bill.

    Upon talking to the upper manager, a woman named Melissa, she was very rude to me. Barely acknowledged my issues, said that Freedom could not take responsibility for their employees or network. How come they cannot?

    When I started to argue that they could, she ended the call. That is really upsetting.

    If any of you are thinking on going with Freedom, think twice! You might be as upset as I am right now.

  20. gui_gms@hotmail.com'
    GUILHERME STOCOVICK

    I have been with Freedom since April/17, got the S8 and the $35 plan, pretty much every day I miss calls that the phone doesn’t even rings while I’m home with an almost full signal, the calls go straight to voicemail and I receive an SMS later saying that I missed the call. I already made a complaint to the customer service and they said they would give me $5 off my plan for the next 4 months, that doesn’t solve the problem at all and I am starting to see other options.

  21. gretchenjr@hotmail.com'
    Gretchen

    So unsatisfied. I was on the phone and the service dropped at least 5 times. I had to call back my friend and every time we talked, the service dropped. It became annoying and tedious to always call my friend back and quess when the call would drop. This is completely embarrassing for Freedom and frustrating on my end,

  22. Auntdarsteers01@hotmail.com'
    Darlene

    Freedom mobile is one of the worst comp I have ever been with , nothing but problems with them I also live in Barrie and when you get out of Barrie you get no service so they told me to up grade so I did still no server then I went to pay my tab right out good to say I am know with another company nothing but a nightmare horrible, horrible company and customer service

  23. joburgboy678@gmail.com'
    Marcus Travadi

    I have now been waiting to speak to some one at Freedom headquarters and have been on hold for over an hour. I think this unacceptable. I am owed 150 dollars, and I have been told by your back office that it would be mailed out to me in 2 weeks time. That was 2 months ago. Now if I owed your company any money, I would be aggressively hounded. Now after being on hold for 1 hour and 22 minutes I have hung up and consider my options. I feel , as do many people that I have spoken with, that since becoming FREEDOM MOBILE, that your service has suffered.

  24. jenfleming11@gmail.com'
    Jennifer

    Horrible coverage and customer service. Purchased a US add on for time in states, phone, text and data did not work at all. Called and asked for a refund and was told they will only refund me 2/3 of add on cost as I should have called or contacted them when in the states. HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE because nothing on the pan worked. Compete jerks!

  25. opinion.head@yahoo.ca'
    O. Head

    Do yourself a favour to avoid total frustration and endless lack of service and concerns – just don’t get it. Within Ottawa there are major black holes and on the outskirts ie Stittsville, Orleans, South Keys etc Customer service is totally unresponsive – get everything in writing – including canxcellation of service – keep billing you

  26. sdayang@gmail.com'
    Sherry

    Yeah I was with Freedom Mobile for a month and I would lose reception all the time. I wasn’t to able to make outgoing calls on the 401 , Sheppard Ave., Finch Ave., all the time the reception goes and goes. It goes to voicemail, it doesn’t ring. I was with Freedom Mobile in February 2017 and then I switched to Fido Mobile in March 2017.

  27. naspirani@gmail.com'
    Naseem

    Customer service sucks. Misleading info given to customers. I was told if I upgraded my phone, I would get a $5 discount. I was happy about this and proceeded to upgrade my phone only to find out the $5 off was for only 4 months. Shame on you Freedom Mobile for lying to your customers. You should be upfront with your customers and give them the full information.

  28. nhumadi775@gmail.com'
    Najia

    I have no service for the past two weeks trying to get my connection back but it’s hopeless talking to costumer support they all say the same thing settings/more/network search/ then select home then all you hear is the keyboard as they really trying something to work ?Then I noticed that I am talking to people are located in Egypt and some are in the Philippines my advice you go with local carrier way better even if you pay more . Save your self the slot off headec stay away from freedom mobile or windmobile nothing but bs

  29. luismoyano71@hotmail.com'
    Luis

    Very poor coverage, I work in the GTA and live in Barrie, no signal in Toronto downtown, no signal in 400 and Finch area, limited signal in Barrie, signal comes and goes!!! Pay for nothing, I read this article and believe is talking about some other company call Freedom not the one I have my phone service with. Changing soon

  30. garygage@rocketmail.com'
    Gary

    Terrible company!!
    I put my son on a wind phone. Nothing but trouble. They told us service anywhere in B.C.. We went to Prince George this winter the service was limited. No problem it’s a new company and that’s ok.
    We come home I pay his bill he’s cut off. Why? Because they surcharged him for being in the states??? He’s never been to the states!!!
    Argued with them, payed the bill. Move on.
    This month I underpaid the bill by $5.
    Probably another surcharge I wasn’t aware of. So I phone ask for the bills to be sent to my email. Told I can pay next month no problem. They cut me off again!!!
    Phoned, argued, waited for 30min for a supervisor. Guess what no super, guess you have to call back.
    Ridiculous!!
    Go with Telus!! All day long

  31. Gagbains.gb@gmail.com'
    Gagan

    Its not great, speed is not much different than 4G and signal switches often from LTE to 4G everywhere losing signal most times.

    Taking about practical stuff not testing download speeds to show.
    And I’m using LG v20 in Vancouver area.

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