If you have a student heading off to high school, college or university chances are they will be taking a cell phone with them.

The youth wireless business accounts for about $2.8 billion dollars a year in Canada and most of this money is coming from students who don't work or have very little income.

Now Canada's mobile carriers are targeting the back-to-school market with special plans and rates. But that doesn't mean they are the best option so it's wise to use helpful and free online cell phone plan calculators to help you choose the right plan for you.

Halle Khosravi from Toronto graduated from Queen's University last year but will be attending the Academy of Design in Toronto this fall. She is not only switching schools -- she is switching cell phone carriers as well. She says trying to find a cellphone to fit her lifestyle has become a complicated endeavour and that many plans have costly add-ons and extras that she doesn't need.

"It would be nice to find a cell phone plan that cuts the fat and gives me only the features that I really want to use," Khosravi says. 

David and Alexa Lemstra are a brother and sister team who developed and run www.cellplanexpert.ca, a free website that lets Canadian consumers compare cellphone plans across the country.

David says: "Cellphone companies like to keep their plans complicated on purpose. The more confused consumers are the more likely they are to throw up their hands and say 'just give me any phone you have.' By doing some research you can find the right plan for you and save yourself a lot of money."

To use their website you need to log on and answer questions such as where you live and whether you plan to be an occasional user, a chatter, talker, traveller or texter. 

Once the website knows how you plan to use the phone it will give you the best three options for your area with pricing.

The website found an emergency-only option from 7-11 that allows you to have a phone plan for $3.34 a month! (You have to buy a phone though.) Still it shows there are many options for all cellphone users.

Along with cellplanexpert.ca there is also the website www.cellphones.ca which also has reviews of Canadian cellphone plans and phones.

These are free resources and are worth checking out if you are looking for a phone.

Key Points:

  • This year, traditionally dominant carriers like Bell, Telus and Rogers face several new entrants including Mobilicity, WIND and Public Mobile
  • The youth wireless market accounts for $2.8 billion in annual revenue, or 16 per cent of $17.3 billion industry-wide, as reported in the first quarter of 2010
  • More than half comes from the 20 to 24 age group, with 15-to-19-year-olds accounting for a third. The rest comes from users aged 5 to 14
  • The best mobile plans for students often depend on when and how often they talk and text
  • Pay-as-you-go options are good choices for students on a budget, while talk and text plans can range from $25-45
  • Those with smart phones like iPhones or Blackberrys can normally see monthly bills of $50-$80
  • Cellplanexpert.ca is a free online tool that allows users to input how often they talk or text among other criteria. It then searches through a database for the best matches and lists them by cost

About CellPlanExpert.Ca

  • The website was launched in 2007 by brother-and-sister team Alexa Lemstra and David Lemstra, a computer engineer
  • The free online tool lets users input data about how much they're expecting to use their cell phone, from minutes and texts to long-distance calls and voicemail
  • The system then searches through a database of thousands of plans from various mobile carriers
  • It calculates and compares different plans suited to your usage habits
  • It then offers a list of plans and rates, starting with the cheapest
  • All hidden costs and fees are included in the estimates
  • Industry Canada created a similar tool last year but it was scrapped

About Cellphones.ca

  • This Canadian website also offers detailed information on both cellphones and cell plans
  • It offers free side-by-side comparisons and reviews of phones
  • Users are also encouraged to post their own reviews as well as weigh in at the discussion forums