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Canadian networks power us through the pandemic and beyond

As the world spins on, I’d like to take a moment to look back on the last six months and take stock. It has been a turbulent period, to say the least, with millions of Canadians changing the way they work, learn, shop, socialize and access critical services. As the economy shut down and people sheltered in place our networks were put to the test and the telecommunications industry in Canada rose to the occasion and delivered the vital connectivity needed to keep Canadians and businesses connected and safe.

The fact that our networks were able to bear such a shock to the system didn’t just happen by chance. We’ve been pouring billions of dollars into Canada for the last two generations and have built a world-class telecommunications system that can handle a seismic shift in consumer behaviour. Rogers alone has spent $60B over the last 35 years.

The pandemic has revealed how crucial our networks are and confirmed that Canadians enjoy some of the best networks in the world. Sustained investment in next generation networks and technology and the competitive advantage they bring is essential to help rebuild our economy and maintain our place on the world stage.

How did Canada’s networks do?

Canada’s networks were up to the challenge.

According to the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association:  

  • In March and April 2020, as Canadians rapidly moved to work and learn from home, wireline home Internet download volumes increased by up to 49%, and upload by 69%1.
  • For the next four months, usage remained well above pre-COVID levels – in June and July, it was still 21% higher for downloads and 44% for uploads2.  

Even with such a dramatic spike, Canada’s resilient networks were up to the task3. While average internet speed slowed by 2% in the early weeks of the pandemic, as the months went by and we added more capacity, speeds were up 8% by July. Our decades of investment in the most advanced technologies has meant that Canadians and businesses have remained connected to what matters most.

Wireless network performance

Canada’s mobile network performance during COVID-19 was less of a concern, as Canadians were sheltering in place and as a result many were using wireline broadband networks.

However, overall our wireless networks also performed well.

  • A May Open Signal4 report found that “Astoundingly, rural Canadian users have far better download speeds than users in five of the seven G7 countries in the world”. Average speeds in Canada were found to be between 20% and 110% faster, in fact.
  • Another study that looked at mobile network experience in Canada5 during the pandemic found that:
  • Overall, the Canadian experience has been resilient compared with many countries. 
  • There were changes in volume and in the locations where people were using mobile data and, in some areas, this increased load on mobile networks. Despite this, Canadian operators continued to make strides in expanding 4G availability. Rogers made the biggest jump, moving up to first place with a score of 94.2%
  • Canada is also a leader in 5G speeds. While it’s early days yet, an August study6 benchmarking the global 5G user experience. found that Canada ranked 2nd in the world and first among peer countries7 for 5G users’ overall download speed.

Our world-class mobile networks are a result of billions of dollars of investment by facilities-based network operators. Canadians and the economy in general were able to weather the COVID-19 storm due in no small part to Canada’s robust telecommunications networks. We are more dependent than ever on the nation’s digital infrastructure. Our world-class networks can serve as the foundation on which to build a more inclusive, resilient economy. If Canada is to remain a global leader, especially as we face the task of rebuilding the economy after the pandemic, we need telecom policy and regulations that continue to encourage facilities-based investment.

[7] G7 & Australia