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 2020, Canada’s telecommunications industry – defined as the facilities-based network operators supplying wireless and wireline connectivity services – directly contributed $70.7 billion in GDP to Canada’s economy, and supported 596,000 jobs. (Accenture, Connecting Canadians during COVID-19: The impact of the wireless and wireline industry in 2020 and beyond, 2021)

  • 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 and $26 billion will be spent between 2020-2026 in deploying 5G infrastructure, with most of that investment being made by Canada’s facilities-based wireless operators. (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

  • Although Canada exceeds the G20 in the cost of building mobile wireless infrastructure, Canadian networks regularly outperform their global peers, ranking among the top G20 countries for mobile download speed, LTE availability, and mobile user video experience. (PwC, Understanding the cost and quality of networks across the G20, 2021)

  • Since 2014, mobile download speeds on Canadian networks have increased 416.2% – from an average of 13 Mbps to more than 67 Mbps in the summer of 2021. (CWTA statistics collected from Opensignal global and Canadian Mobile Network Experience reports, 2014-2021)

  • In Canada, average mobile download speeds are faster than all other G7 countries plus Australia, and over 110.4% faster than the average download speed found in the United States. (Opensignal, country-level State of Mobile Network Experience reports, 2021)

  • 5G download speeds are up to 98.2% faster in Canada than those available on U.S. mobile wireless networks. (Opensignal, Canada and U.S. 5G Experience reports, Aug. 2021 and Oct. 2021)

  • As of December 2020, the median download speed on Canada’s 5G networks was 205.3% faster than its 4G LTE mobile wireless connections. (Ookla, Speedtest Insights, 2021)

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 97.4% of Canadians at the end of 2020, a 14.4 point increase since 2016. (CRTC, Communications Market Reports, 2021)

  • 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)

  • 88.5% of major roads and highways had LTE coverage by the end of 2020. (CRTC, CMR, 2021)

  • As of March 2022, Canada has 10 LTE networks, 7 LTE-A networks, and 5 5G networks. (5G Americas/TeleGeography, 5G & LTE Deployments, 2022)

  • As of the end of 2021, 5G services are available to more than 70% of the Canadian population. (WSP reports and press releases, 2021)

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 $83.6 billion in building Canada’s wireless networks (i.e. from 1987 at least $57.6 billion in capital expenditures, with a further $26 plus billion in spectrum fees). (Accenture, Connecting Canadians during COVID-19, 2021, ISED and BAML statistics)

  • Canadian facilities-based communications service providers have further invested at least $157B in wireline CAPEX since 1996. (Accenture, Connecting Canadians during COVID-19, 2021). Note: wireline capex exists prior to 1996 but data is not readily available.

  • In 2020, Canadian facilities-based communications service providers invested $10.58B in CAPEX into wireless and wireline connectivity combined. (CSP 2020 annual reports)

  • The same service providers invested $3.5B in acquiring 600 MHz spectrum in 2019, and spent a further $8.91B on 3500 MHz spectrum licenses in 2021 to continue their deployment of 5G services across Canada. (ISED Auction Processes and Results, 2019 and 2021)

  • Between 2010-2018, 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).

  • 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.)

  • Compared to their G20 peers, Canadian wireless operators have 2X higher capital expenditures per subscriber, 3X higher spectrum costs, and 80% less scale, meaning that the expense of operating wireless networks in Canada is significantly greater than in other countries. (PwC, The importance of a healthy telecommunications industry to Canada’s high-tech success, 2020)

Spectrum

  • Since 1999, facilities-based operators have invested over $26 billion in spectrum auctions to establish Canada’s current national wireless infrastructure. (Accenture, Investing in Canada’s Digital Infrastructure, December 2020, ISED statistics)

  • 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.

  • The mid band spectrum auction that was completed in Canada in July 2021, resulted in a price of $1.81 MHz/pop, the most expensive in the world, almost twice what the US paid at $0.94 MHz/pop.6 Canadian National MNOs paid even more, at $2.62 MHz/pop.7. Canadian MNOs paid between 9.6X and 21.4X that of European peers. Germany, France and the UK paid $0.19, $0.16 and $0.09 per MHz/pop respectively. (PwC, Understanding the cost and quality of networks across the G20, 2021)

  • 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 ISED from all spectrum users. (CWTA statistics collected from ISED)

  • In total, wireless network operators have paid at least $3.7 billion in annual spectrum license fees since 1987. (CWTA statistics collected from ISED)

  • Based on annual spectrum licence fees, Canadian service providers pay the government over 28 times more per subscriber than their U.S. counterparts. (Canadian carrier reports and U.S. Federal Communications Commission statistics as of 2019)

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 December 2021, there were 40.3 million mobile wireless subscribers in Canada. That is a year over year increase of 4.2 million (+12%) and a five-year increase of 9.8 million (+32%). (Includes mobile phones, mobile broadband, and certain other wireless devices. CRTC, CMR, Current Trends – Mobile wireless, Q4 2021)

  • At the end of 2021, Canada’s penetration rate for mobile phone service subscriptions was 100.4%. (CWTA calculation based on quarterly WSP reports and StatCan’s estimated 2021 population of Canadians aged 10+)

  • More Canadians have mobile phones than landlines (at least 94.5% compared to 38.8% in 2020), while over one third of Canadian households rely exclusively on wireless services. (CRTC, CMR, 2021; 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. Over 65% of mobile subscribers had wireless plans with at least 5GB of data in 2020 (compared to 40% in 2018). (CRTC, CMR, 2021)

  • Mobile data traffic grew 37% to reach 2,279.5 petabytes in 2020 (2,279,500,000 GB). (Accenture, Connecting Canadians during COVID-19, 2021)

  • As of December 2021, average mobile wireless data usage per subscriber (i.e. mobile phones, M2M, and mobile broadband) was 4.3 GB per month, an increase of 13.2% over the previous year (3.8GB), a 34.4% increase since 2019 (3.2 GB), and 104.8% since 2017 (2.1 GB). (CRTC, CMR, Current Trends – Mobile wireless, Q4 2021)

  • In 2021, Canadian 5G users consumed 2.2X more data than 4G users, which was a higher ratio than any country besides Japan. (Opensignal, Quantifying the Impact of 5G, 2021)

Declining Prices and Greater Value

Plan Prices

  • From January 2019 to February 2022, consumer prices for Canadian cellular services decreased by 31.74%. In comparison, the average price for Canadian consumer goods and services rose by 9.88%, and the price of U.S. cellular services rose by 3.6% during the same period of time. (StatCan consumer price indices, and U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data)

  • According to the federal government, by December 2021 the average price of mid-range wireless plans has declined by 25% since January 2020. (ISED, Price collection data, 2022)

Price per GB

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: