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I am thinking of going hiking in Gaspésie, QC, Canada. While I do not expect to rely on good/any GSM coverage, I will take my phone in case of emergency and I am trying to figure if some provider is better for the coverage of the area. I checked the two main Canadian network, Rogers and Bell, and I do not exactly understand their coverage.

Rogers coverage map seems clear : there is no coverage at all.

Bell coverage map is not so clear. It shows mostly 3G and 4G (my phone does not have 4G), but the 3G is apparently called "3G EVDO / 1xRTT", and some more explanation brings the term "CDMA" which, I think, is a different standard than GSM, which means it would not work with my phone. Does it mean that Bell does not have any coverage with plain old GSM?

I don't really know any other mobile phone network in Canada or locally in Gaspésie. What are the phone providers that would allow me to have a tiny chance that my text would go through ?

On top of that, I have already heard there are multiple standards handled by different providers in Canada, but all this confused me as it is not often clearly specified which phone is compatible with which standard and which operator has which standard.

So ideally, will my phone bought in France, compatible with 3G UMTS and 2G GSM be usable there with some provider? Otherwise, what networks (if there are any other than Bell) cover the Gaspésie?

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Telus appears to have good 3G and some 4G coverage (search for G0E) of Gaspé and the roads leading around the outside of the peninsula, but no provider appears to have any significant coverage of the provincial park or most of the interior.

I checked several other providers, but coverage was even worse.

If I had to have a phone, I would go with Telus, but I wouldn't expect it to work most of the time.

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In the United States and Canada there are two different, and incompatible, cell phone technologies: GSM (which uses SIM cards) and CDMA (which does not). Both are being replaced by LTE (a SIM-card-based technology often marketed as "4G", although its adherence to the 4G standard is limited and thus its use of the term "4G" is controversial).

Without knowing your itinerary and more details about your phone and the plan it currently works with, it is impossible to know with certainty whether you would have the cell coverage you need in an area as isolated as the Gaspésie Peninsula -- but I think the safest and most likely guess is that your phone would not work there (likely not at all, and especially not on the Bell network).

If your goal is to know definitively whether your cell phone would work, I recommended that you call Bell Wireless and tell them that you are not a customer, but want to know if you will be able to roam on their network. Make sure that they understand you have a GSM phone. I think the answer will be no; if so ... ask if they know of any GSM-based cell service in Québec so that you can call that company and pose the same question. (If the initial representative doesn't know anything about this, you might ask if a supervisor would have more information.)

But alternately, if your goal is simply to have a working cell phone, I recommend a different strategy:

  1. Call one or more establishments in Gaspésie that would be familiar with the needs of hikers and the areas where you intend to go (such as camping suppliers and hotels catering to backpackers); ask if there is any cell coverage in the places you intend to hike, and, if so, on what networks.
  2. Purchase in Canada a temporary cell phone that works on this network. In the United States, these temporary phones are commonly sold at big box retailers (Target, WalMart, etc.) as well as grocery stores and drug stores. I suspect the same is true in Canada -- but you should ask the hotels or outfitters you contact to be certain (unless you already know or unless someone more familiar with the scene in Canada elects to share that information here).

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