Canada - Telecoms, Mobile and Broadband - Statistics and Analyses

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Last updated: 15 Feb 2021 Update History

Report Pages: 192

Canada delays 5G spectrum auction

The Canadian telecom market continues to show steady development as operators invest in network upgrades. Much of this work is being supported by regulatory efforts to ensure that operators have spectrum available to develop 5G services, for which several auctions are planned through to 2024. Assigning and releasing spectrum for 5G will allay existing fears that the country could lag developments in the US and Europe. In addition, the regulator has set aside a portion of certain spectrum for new entrants to encourage competition in the wireless segment. Much of the investment among telcos has been channelled into LTE infrastructure to capitalise of consumer demand for mobile data services, while there has also been further investment in 5G.

There has also been a concentration of investment in fixed-line infrastructure, focussed on FttP and, among cable broadband providers, upgrades to the DOCSIS3.1 standard. This is having the effect that the DSL segment is steadily losing market share as customers are migrated to fibre.

At the same time, fixed-line telephony services are dwindling as customers make greater use of mobile networks and VoIP options. Revenue from the broadband and mobile sectors is underpinning overall telecom sector revenue while the fixed-voice sector continues to decline.

Canada’s broadband penetration rate is several percentage points above the OECD average, with around 15.4 million subscriptions for fixed broadband and 30.9 million for mobile broadband in 2019. Government policy has encouraged the extension of broadband to rural and regional areas, with the result that services are almost universally available and the emphasis now is on improving service speeds to enable the entire population to benefit from the digital economy and society. Cable broadband is the principal access platform, followed by DSL. The main cablecos are upgrading their networks to the DOCSIS3.1 standard, which can deliver data at 1Gb/s and above. Fibre deployments are also gaining momentum, with a growing number of Gigabit towns now connected.

The mobile penetration rate remains comparatively low by international standards, and so the market offers further room for growth. Canadians are well provided for LTE and LTE-A infrastructure. Despite topographical challenges and the remoteness of many areas, the major players effectively offer 99% population coverage with LTE. In the 5G segment, Telus and Bell Wireless were early triallists, followed by Shaw Communications in May 2018.

The government has endeavoured to encourage market competition by ensuring that blocks of spectrum have been reserved for new entrants, while preventing deals among operators which would have concentrated spectrum either regionally or nationally. About 43% of spectrum to be auctioned in the 600MHz band has been reserved for smaller operators in a bid to encourage competition.

This report provides a broad range of key statistical data on the major telecoms segments, as well as developments in e-commerce and e-health, and policies which support the adoption of smart meters and the progress of smart grids. It provides an overview of each major sector, an analysis of market developments and an assessment of operator strategies. The report also covers the mobile voice and data markets, as well as the fixed-line and fixed-wireless broadband sectors.

BuddeComm notes that the outbreak of the Coronavirus continues to have a significant impact on production and supply chains globally. During the coming year the telecoms sector to various degrees is likely to experience a downturn in mobile device production, while it may also be difficult for network operators to manage workflows when maintaining and upgrading existing infrastructure. Overall progress towards 5G in Canada has been postponed, as it has in some countries.

On the consumer side, spending on telecoms services and devices is under pressure from the financial effect of large-scale job losses and the consequent restriction on disposable incomes. However, the crucial nature of telecom services, both for general communication as well as a tool for home-working, will offset such pressures. In many markets the net effect should be a steady though reduced increased in subscriber growth.

Although it is challenging to predict and interpret the long-term impacts of the crisis as it develops, these have been acknowledged in the industry forecasts contained in this report.

The report also covers the responses of the telecom operators as well as government agencies and regulators as they react to the crisis to ensure that citizens can continue to make optimum use of telecom services. This can be reflected in subsidy schemes and the promotion of tele-health and tele-education, among other solutions.

Key developments:

  • 3500MHz 5G spectrum auctions postponed to June 2021;
  • Rogers’ 5G network using LiDAR sensors to monitor city vehicle and pedestrian traffic;
  • Unsolicited offer from Rogers and Altice USA to buy Cogeco for CA$10.3 billion is rejected for a second time;
  • Federal Court of Appeals directs incumbents to establish fair wholesale internet rates;
  • ISED approves AWS-3 spectrum sharing agreement between Bell and Telus;
  • Value of Canadian of e-commerce transactions grew to CA$65 billion in 2019;
  • Report update includes the regulator’s 2020 telecom monitoring report, operator data to December 2020, recent market developments.

Companies mentioned in this report:

Rogers Wireless, Bell Mobility, Virgin Mobile Canada, Telus Mobility, SaskTel Mobility, MTS Allstream, Freedom Mobile, Mobilicity, Public Mobile, Vidéotron Wireless, Shaw Communications, Bell Canada, Bell Aliant, BOLDstreet Wireless, Tadaa Wireless, DoDo Wireless, Hotspotzz, Wayport, Boingo, FatPort, Rogers Communications, Craig Wireless System, Barrett Xplore, I-NetLink, SaskTel, Vidéotron, Shaw Cablesystems, Rogers Cable Communications, Cogeco Cable.

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