Facts & Figures

Economic and Societal Impact

Canada’s mobile wireless industry has not only transformed the way in which Canadians communicate, work, and play, it also fuels economic growth and innovation while also helping in the fight against climate change.

Economic Contribution

  • In 2019, Canada’s telecommunications industry – defined as the facilities-based network operators supplying wireless and wireline connectivity services – directly contributed $74.5 billion in GDP to Canada’s economy, and supported 638,000 jobs. (Accenture, Investing in Canada’s Digital Infrastructure: The Economic Impact of Wireless/Wireline Broadband and the Post-COVID Recovery, 2020)

  • The above contribution is comprised of $23.5 billion in direct impact ($16.46B wireless & $7.05B wireline) from the value chain of service providers, and $51 billion ($36.08B wireless & $14.2B wireline) in direct impact due to other industries increasing their sales and output by adding incremental wireless and wireline connections. (Accenture, Investing in Canada’s Digital Infrastructure, 2020)

  • Through the adoption of 5G, approximately 250,000 permanent full-time equivalent jobs will be added to the economy by 2026. (Accenture, Fuel for Innovation, 2018)

  • Nearly 150,000 short-term jobs will be created in construction and engineering when Canada’s 5G networks are built between 2020-2026. (Accenture, Fuel for Innovation, 2018)

  • It is estimated that by 2026, the annual GDP impact of introducing 5G in Canada will be $40 billion. (Accenture, Fuel for Innovation, 2018)

Reducing Canada’s Carbon Footprint

  • As the wireless industry evolves to 5G, energy used by a general 5G cell site will only be 8-15% of a similar 4G cell site. Considering 5G’s substantially greater energy efficiency, it is predicted that 5G will support a thousand-fold traffic increase in the next 10 years, while the full network’s energy consumption will be half the current levels. (Accenture, Accelerating 5G in Canada: The Role of 5G in the Fight Against Climate Change, 2020)

  • The use of wireless technologies in high-emitting industries has enabled a reduction of approximately 10 times as much carbon as the mobile industry’s own operations have generated, and the adoption of 5G could contribute an additional reduction of up to 20% of total wireless technologies enabled reduction. (Accenture, Accelerating 5G in Canada: The Role of 5G in the Fight Against Climate Change, 2020)

  • 5G will also enable ground-breaking new use cases that can lead to improved carbon reduction from most Canadian industry verticals, unlocking the potential to address 23% of Canada’s total 2030 emission reduction target by 2025. (Accenture, Accelerating 5G in Canada, 2020)

World-Leading Wireless Networks

Despite having a population spread across vast regions, Canada’s facilities-based carriers have implemented some of the world’s fastest and most reliable wireless networks, reaching every province and territory. Independent network analyst, Opensignal, describes Canada as a “4G superpower”, with “few other countries better prepared than Canada to deploy 5G networks of the future.” (Opensignal, State of Mobile Networks: Canada, February 2018)

Performance

  • Canadian wireless subscribers enjoy the fastest average mobile download connection speeds in the world, 287% faster than the global average. (Opensignal, The State of Mobile Network Experience, May 2020)

  • In Canada, average mobile download speeds are faster than all other G7 countries plus Australia, and over 123% faster than average download speed found in the United States. (Opensignal, The State of Mobile Network Experience, 2020)

  • As of August 2020, Canada’s 5G user download speed experience ranked second among countries surveyed, with average download speeds 170% faster than the U.S. and leading Germany, Australia, the UK and South Korea. (Opensignal, Benchmarking the Global 5G User Experience, August 2020 – takes into account average 5G and 4G download speeds, as well as time spent connected to each technology)

Coverage

  • Long term evolution (LTE) networks, a 4G wireless technology which delivers higher speeds than previous generations of wireless technology, are available to 99.5% of Canadians. LTE-advanced (LTE-A) networks, offering even higher speeds than LTE, were available to 96% of Canadians at the end of 2019, a 13 point increase since 2016. (CRTC, Communications Monitoring Report, 2020)

  • Across Canada, rural 4G LTE coverage has expanded rapidly over the last decade, increasing from 35.4% in 2013 to reaching 97.4% of Canadians living in rural communities in 2019. (CRTC, CMR, 2020)

  • 88.8% of major roads and highways had LTE coverage by the end of 2019. (CRTC, CMR, 2020)

  • As of December 2020, Canada has 10 LTE networks, 7 LTE-A networks, and 4 5G networks. (5G Americas/TeleGeography, 5G & LTE Deployments, 2020)

Investment

Canada’s leadership in wireless is possible only because of the significant investments made by Canadian facilities-based carriers, the companies who build and operate Canada’s world-class wireless networks. Facilities-based carriers include: Bell, Rogers, TELUS, Shaw/Freedom, Videotron, SaskTel, Eastlink, Xplore Mobile, and Tbaytel.

Capital Expenditures and other Costs

  • Canada’s facilities-based wireless carriers have invested over $72.3 billion in building Canada’s wireless networks (i.e. from 1987 at least $54.3 billion in capital expenditures, with a further $18 plus billion in spectrum fees). (Accenture, Investing in Canada’s Digital Infrastructure, 2020).

  • Canadian facilities-based communications service providers have further invested at least $150.3B in wireline CAPEX since 1996. (Accenture, Investing in Canada’s Digital Infrastructure, 2020). Note: wireline capex exists prior to 1996 but data is not readily available.

  • In 2019, Canadian facilities-based communications service providers invested more than $10B in CAPEX into wireless and wireline connectivity, and spent $3.5B to acquire 600 MHz spectrum licenses to support their launch of 5G services across Canada. (Accenture, Investing in Canada’s Digital Infrastructure, 2020).

  • Over the last decade, Canada’s telecom industry outpaced its global peers and ranked first in the G7 for investment, spending $255 per capita on telecom investment (compared to $156 for the average OECD country), and re-investing 23¢ for every dollar of revenue (compared to the OECD average of 15¢). (BCG, In The Balance: Future-proofing Canada’s digital infrastructure to unlock benefits for all, 2019).

  • On a per-subscriber basis, Canadian facilities-based wireless carriers’ capital expenditures were 15% greater in 2019 than in 2015, and were greater than the expenditures of the U.S. or any G7 country. (CRTC, CMR, 2020; Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Global Wireless Matrix, April 2020)

  • Canadian network operators incur 83 percent higher costs for network building than operators in the average benchmark countries* and 34.1 percent higher costs than operators in the U.S. for the four primary factors of production: capital, labour, materials spectrum. (Christensen Associates, Key cost Drivers of Mobile Wireless Services in Canada: Implications for Pricing, March 2020). *Benchmark countries are Japan, Germany, France, U.K., Italy and Australia.)

  • It is estimated that, between 2020 and 2026, $26 billion will be spent in deploying 5G infrastructure in Canada, with most of such investment being made by Canada’s facilities-based wireless operators. (Accenture, Fuel for Innovation, 2018)

Spectrum

  • Since 1999, facilities-based operators have invested over $18 billion in spectrum auctions to establish Canada’s current national wireless infrastructure. (Accenture, Investing in Canada’s Digital Infrastructure, December 2020)

  • In Canada, capacity band spectrum is 424% more expensive than the average benchmark countries* and 65% more expensive than in the U.S. In Canada, coverage band spectrum is 201% more expensive than the benchmark countries and 556% more expensive than in the U.S. (Christensen Associates, Key cost Drivers of Mobile Wireless Services in Canada, January 2020). *Benchmark countries are Japan, Germany, France, U.K., Italy and Australia.

  • Canada’s wireless service providers pay annual spectrum licence fees in excess of $180 million each year – nearly two-thirds of the total fees collected by Industry Canada from all spectrum users. (CWTA statistics collected from ISED)

  • In total, wireless network operators have paid approximately $3.7 billion in annual spectrum license fees between 1987-2018. (CWTA statistics collected from ISED)

  • Based on annual spectrum licence fees, Canadian service providers pay the government over 20 times more per subscriber than their U.S. counterparts. (CWTA statistics collected from the U.S. Federal Communications Commission and ISED)

Canadians Increasingly Rely on Wireless Services

Wireless services have become an integral part of Canadians’ lives. Whether to stay in touch with family and friends, consume content, or work while on the move, wireless services have become indispensable for most Canadians.

  • As of September 2020, there were 33.8 million wireless subscriptions in Canada. (CWTA statistics, not including additional subscriptions from Canadian wireless providers who do not publish subscriber data)

  • In the last five years, Canada has added 5.6 million wireless customers, increasing its penetration rate by over 10%. By the end of 2019, Canada’s penetration rate was close to 90.9%, representing more than 100% of Canadians aged 10 years or older. (CRTC, CMR, 2020; Statistics Canada Census of the Population)

  • More Canadians have mobile phones (91%) than landlines (37.8%), while over one third of Canadian households rely exclusively on wireless services. (CRTC, CMR, 2020; CRTC, CMR: Telecommunications Overview, 2018)

Data Consumption Continues Strong Growth

Canadians consume more wireless data than ever, and the speed and reach of Canada’s leading mobile wireless networks allow them to do this.  Forecasts indicate that this growth will continue for the foreseeable future.

  • Canadians are buying larger data plans, with almost 60% of mobile subscribers having wireless data plans that were 5GB or larger in 2019 (compared to 40% in 2018). (CRTC, CMR, 2020)

  • Mobile data traffic grew 42% to reach 1,704 petabytes in 2019 (1,704,000,000 GB). (Accenture, Investing in Canada’s Digital Infrastructure, 2020)

  • Consumers with a data plan increased their data consumption 16% between 2018- 2019 (and 45% since 2017), reaching an average of 2.9 GB per month in 2019. (CRTC, CMR, 2020)

Declining Prices and Greater Value

Plan Prices

  • Well over half of Canadians with data plans (56.5%) had mobile plans with 5GB or more of data in 2019. (CRTC, CMR, 2020 – Open Data set MB-F7)

  • Consumer prices for cellular services decreased by 14.8% in December 2020 compared to December 2019. (Statistics Canada, Telecommunications: Connecting Canadians, 2021)

  • Average reported monthly price in Canada for a plan with unlimited talk/text and 5GB of mobile data has decreased by $28.65 from 2016 to 2019 ($77.47 vs $48.82; a 36.98% decline), with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of -14.3%. (CRTC, CMR, 2020)

  • The steady decline in prices is illustrated by the following chart:

(CRTC, 2019 Annual Communications Pricing Survey; CMR 2020 – Open Data set P-F10)

Price per GB

  • The average revenue per GB of mobile data declined by 18.9% from 2018-2019, and by 64% between 2015 and 2019. (CRTC, CMR, 2020)

  • This consistent decline in revenue per GB is also demonstrated by the chart below:

(CRTC, CMR, 2020 – Open Data set MB-S3)

Value

  • In an independent study prepared for a U.S. industry association, NERA Consulting ranked Canada first for “value proposition”, a measurement that considers price, service plan attributes, network quality and coverage, and country attributes, among the G7 and Australia, and concluded that Canadians receive “more bang for the buck” than citizens of these peer countries. (NERA Consulting, A Comparison of the Mobile Wireless Value Proposition, 2020)

  • In 2020, Canadian unlimited data plans were ranked first among the G7 plus Australia, based on their performance across the four key drivers of wireless user experience – speed, access, price and latency. (PwC, Understanding Affordability of Consumer Mobile Wireless Services in Canada: Addendum, January 2020)

Industry Reports

Industry Statistics
Canadian wireless subscriber numbers: