Canadian Household Access to Wireless Phones Reaches 72%

Talking, text messaging and picture taking are top mobile phone activities

OTTAWA – November 20, 2008 A new Harris/Decima survey finds that 72% of Canadian households now have access to a wireless phone, up from 64% in 2006. Commissioned by the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association (CWTA), the wireless usage survey also reveals that 69% of households now have access to two or more cell phones.

The average increase of 8% in national wireless household penetration from 2006 to 2008 is for the most part consistent across all regions of the country. The increase has been most significant in Quebec – from 51% in 2006 to 61% in 2008. Albertans continue to be at the forefront of wireless phone adoption overall with a household wireless penetration rate of 82%.

“Essentially, more Canadians are using wireless phones, usage of wireless phones is deeper within each household and Canadians continue to consider them viable alternatives to their traditional home phone,” said Paul Musca, Senior Consultant at Harris/Decima. “In 2008, we found that 6% of Canadian households report being cell-only. And given that in 2006 approximately 5% of Canadian households had a cell phone exclusively, the value observed in 2008 represents a 20% increase in just two years.”

When looking at penetration rates at the individual level, Canadians in the 18 to 34 age bracket are the most likely to have a wireless phone at 73%. Approximately two-thirds (65%) of Canadians in the 16-17 and 35-54 (66%) age brackets report having access to a wireless phone. Cell phone use by younger Canadians ages 13 to 15 was found to be 30%.

Apart from voice calls, the study found that text messaging and picture-taking top the list of the most common activities performed on mobile phones. The use of text messaging has grown enormously from 25% of wireless users in 2006 to 44% in 2008; picture-taking has gone from 15% to 38%; and the use of multimedia messaging has increased from 3% to 13%.

“Canadians continue to be some of the most enthusiastic mobile phone users in the world, averaging more than 400 minutes of talk time each month,” said Bernard Lord, CWTA President and CEO. “And text messaging volumes continue to soar with growth rates in excess of 100% per year. In the first six months of this year, Canadians sent close to 9 billion text messages, with a current daily count of more than 54 million.”

The Harris/Decima survey found that younger cell users (13-17) send over three times as many text messages per day as adults (24 vs. 7), with 83% of youth reporting that they send and/or receive them. In total, 74% of youth wireless users take pictures with their camera phones (approximately six per week) and 45% download content like ringtones and wallpaper. Multimedia messaging, or picture messaging, is also popular among youth with 38% sending or receiving these types of messages.

Mobile phone users ages 18-34 are also taking full advantage of their wireless device features, as 73% report sending or receiving text messages; 59% take pictures; 25% download ringtones or wallpaper; and 24% send or receive multimedia messages. Similarly, in the 35-54 age range, text messaging is increasing with 37% sending or receiving text messages; 34% taking pictures; 12% downloading content; and 9% sending or receiving multimedia messages. In the 55+ range, 16% of users send or receive text messages and 17% take pictures. On the whole, adults take approximately four pictures per week with their camera phones.

The study also shows that cell phones are of particular benefit to youth and their familial relationships. The majority of youth (94%) say they feel safe having access to a cell phone in the event that they need to contact their family. As well, a substantial portion of the youth demographic (70%) feels that cell phones help them manage their families’ schedules. And more than half – 55% of all youth surveyed – feel that their cell phone actually improves the nature of their relationship with their families.

Other survey highlights include:

  1. Nearly half (46%) of those who have access to a wireless phone say they have used their phone in an emergency situation.
  2. 19% of respondents that currently have access to a wireless phone said their wireless service will likely replace their landline service over the next year.
  3. Overall, more than half (54%) of respondents feel that their cellular phone improves the quality of their leisure time. Younger Canadians (69%) are more likely to feel that cell phones have a positive impact on the quality of their leisure time (versus 47% for Canadians 35 years of age and above).
  4. 31% of adults and 51% of youth surveyed feel that the ability to text their friends and family has improved relationships with them.
  5. 51% of youth wireless users would be interested in having school announcements communicated to them via their cell phones.
  6. Among adults, over half (54%) say that other family members such as parents, children or relatives are who they call most often from their cell phones. Other commonly called contacts include a spouse or partner (44%), friends (37%) and work colleagues (17%).
  7. Youth between the ages of 13 and 17 most often call other family members (77%). Friends closely follow at 69% and one fifth (20%) of these respondents said they call their boyfriend or girlfriend most often.

The complete “2008 Wireless Attitudes Study” is available on the CWTA Web site at

Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association (CWTA)
CWTA is the authority on wireless issues, developments and trends in Canada. It represents cellular, PCS, messaging, mobile radio, fixed wireless and mobile satellite carriers as well as companies that develop and produce products and services for the industry. Visit the Association’s Web site at

Harris/Decima is one of Canada’s most established names in public opinion and market research, with a 25-year track record of innovation and client satisfaction. Today, we are among Canada’s largest full service research firms and fastest growing success story.

Information and interview opportunities:
Marc Choma
613-233-4888 ext. 207
[email protected]

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