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

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 analysts, Opensignal, have described 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 99.3% of Canadians. LTE-advanced (LTE-A) networks, offering even higher speeds than LTE, were available to 94.9% of Canadians at the end of 2018, a 3 point increase over the previous year. (CRTC, Communications Monitoring Report: Retail Mobile Sector, 2019)

  • Across Canada, rural 4G LTE coverage has expanded rapidly over the last decade, increasing from 35% in 2013 to reaching 96.5% of Canadians living in rural communities in 2018. (CRTC, Communications Monitoring Report, 2019)

  • 87.2% of major roads and highways had LTE coverage by the end of 2018. (CRTC, Communications Monitoring Report, 2019 – excluding the North)

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 $70 billion in building Canada’s wireless networks (i.e. from 1987 to April, 2019 – over $50 billion in capital expenditures, with a further $17.6 billion in spectrum acquisition, and the remainder in annual spectrum license fees). (Historical data from Nordicity, CRTC, CWTA and BAML)

  • 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)

  • 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.

Spectrum

  • Facilities-based wireless service providers have supplied the Canadian government with over $17.6 billion in spectrum auction revenues between the years 1987-2019. (Department of Innovation, Science and Economic Development (ISED), Government of Canada)

  • 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, these providers 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 December 2019, there were 33.2 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 five million wireless customers, increasing its penetration rate by 10%. By the end of 2019, Canada’s penetration rate was close to 90%, representing more than 100% of Canadians aged 10 years or older. (CWTA data and Statistics Canada, Census of the Population)

  • More Canadians have mobile phones (90.18%) than landlines (41.25%), while 36% of Canadian households rely exclusively on wireless services. (CRTC, CMR: Telecommunications Overview, 2018; Communications Monitoring Report, 2019)

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.

  • Consumers with a data plan increased their data consumption 23.4% between 2017 and 2018, reaching an average of 2.5 GB per month. In 2018, Canadian mobile subscribers as a whole consumed 26.3% more data per month than in 2017 – this was 232% more monthly data than 2014. (CRTC, Communications Monitoring Report, 2019)

  • With the introduction of unlimited data plans, the average consumer is expected to double their data consumption between 2018 and 2020, while paying 50% less per GB of data in 2020 than they paid in 2018. (PwC, Understanding Affordability of Consumer Mobile Wireless Services in Canada: Addendum, January 2020)

Declining Prices and Greater Value

Plan Prices

  • Prices for surveyed mobile service plans declined from 2016-2018 by an average of 28%, with plans in the unlimited talk and text and 5GB data category declining by an average of 35%. (CRTC, Communications Monitoring Report, 2019)

  • Between May 2019 and September 2019, the average price of plans in the 1GB, 2GB and 5GB service baskets fell by 42%, 29% and 25%, respectively. (ISED, Price Comparisons of Wireline, Wireless and Internet Services in Canada and with Foreign Jurisdictions, 2019 Edition)

  • Starting in June 2019, the national wireless providers each announced unlimited data plans, which provide a set amount of data (e.g. 10GB, 20GB etc.) at maximum speed, with speed reduced after the customer exceeds that allotment but without any overage fees. These plans came after Freedom Mobile launched its Big Gig plans in 2018. Other regional providers and flanker brands also over large data plans with no overage fees.

Price per GB

  • The price per GB of mobile data declined by 56% from 2015 to 2018. (CTRC, Communications Monitoring Report, 2016-2019)

  • Advertised price per GB has declined 62% (premium brands) and 49% (flanker brands) over the past two years during back-to-school promotions. (Scotiabank, investor presentation, September 2020)

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 Reports
Canadian wireless subscriber numbers: