2019 Canada Speedtest Market Snapshot: Mobile

Wednesday 23 Oct 2019 | Member Press Release | Member Resources |

Introduction

Canada ranked fourth in the world for average mobile download speed in Q2-Q3 2019, according to data from Speedtest Intelligence®. The only North American country in the top 20, Canada ranks between Qatar and Australia. Canada ranked 42nd globally for mobile upload speed. Mobile speeds in Canada are fast and getting faster with mean download speed increasing 24.2% compared to Q2-Q3 2018. Mean upload speed improved 20.1% during the same period.

Mobile Data

Country Speeds

Mobile Speeds

Canada’s average mobile download speed was 62.62 Mbps in Q2-Q3 2019, according to Speedtest Intelligence. Canada’s mean upload speed was 13.85 Mbps in Q2-Q3 2019.

Fastest Operators

Speed Score - Nationwide

Looking at top providers, TELUS was the fastest mobile operator in Canada in Q2-Q3 2019 with a Speed Score™ of 69.61, a 16.8% improvement over the same period the year before. Bell was second with 68.59 (up 17.5%) followed by Fido at 59.35 (30.3%), Rogers at 54.01 (31.8%), Vidéotron at 40.88 (8.8%) and Freedom Mobile at 29.05 (25.1%).

TELUS’ average speeds keep going up despite the fact that traffic also keeps increasing. Bell and TELUS share RAN (Radio Access Network) across Canada, but own separate network cores. That means that cell sites (eNodeB), spectrum and infrastructure equipment providing coverage and capacity are shared, while the backend responsible for authentication, billing, voice and messaging is managed separately. All the spectrum bands are shared, except for the 2300 MHz Band 30 that was initially only serving TELUS’ subscribers. This could be why both operators have nearly identical average speeds, with TELUS having a slight edge. It will be interesting to watch speeds further improve as the percentage of users with more capable modern devices increase.

After rolling out Gigabit Class LTE service back in 2018, Bell Mobility has continued expanding network capacity and adding layers of spectrum to its rich spectrum portfolio. Subscribers with capable devices are served with multiple low-band channels in the 700 MHz band, 850 MHz, multiple mid-band spectrum blocks in the 1900 MHz and 2100 MHz bands, and often two blocks in the 2600 MHz bands. This already rich amount of capacity is topped with multiple License Assisted Access (LAA) channels in the 5 GHz band at select locations. Although a holder of multiple low-band spectrum blocks, Bell decided not to acquire additional 600 MHz licenses in the recent spectrum auction. The operator also further increased its operating efficiency by sunsetting the legacy CDMA network back in April.

Rogers, with its own RAN and network core, has been delivering very competitive speeds with significant improvement year over year. Similarly to Bell and TELUS, the spectrum assets consist of low, mid and high band spectrum, enabling the right balance of reach and capacity. Rogers dominated the bidding in a recent 600 MHz spectrum auction, where they acquired 52 licenses covering 35.2 million people. This should pave the way for 5G deployment using greenfield spectrum assets ideal for broad coverage.

Rogers and its subsidiary Fido Solutions should have nearly identical speeds because both brands run on the same radio access network. However, a number of factors could affect the results in practice, including cell load, RF conditions, test locations and more.

Freedom Mobile’s LTE network is a combination of 2100 MHz band, 2500 MHz band, and 700 MHz band. Its relatively limited footprint relies on extended coverage through roaming agreements. Despite its limited coverage and capacity when compared to the biggest operators in Canada, Freedom still provides respectable average speeds sufficient for a rich media experience on the go.

Regional operator Vidéotron leveraged assets in the 700 MHz, 2100 MHz and 2500 MHz bands, to deliver competitive performance throughout Québec. At a recent 600 MHz spectrum auction Vidéotron secured 10 frequency blocks paving the way for future 5G deployments. In May, Vidéotron launched a 5G test site in Montreal’s Quartier de l’innovation in partnership with Ericsson.

The mysterious aspect of the Canadian wireless industry is the road to 5G. The operators aren’t rushing deployments and are instead still in the early stages of 5G testing. Only a small sliver of fresh spectrum (70 MHz) was made available earlier this year through the 600 MHz auction. The next big spectrum auction is scheduled for late 2020, when massive swaths of prime mid-band 3.5 GHz spectrum will be auctioned for commercial 5G use. The millimeter wave spectrum deployed for 5G in the U.S. will not be made available in Canada until the tail end of 2021.

Best Available Technology

Looking at background coverage scans for each operator, we mapped the best available technology that we saw in Speedtest® data during Q2-Q3 2019. Bell and TELUS had the most comprehensive map of scans and, excepting Manitoba and some remote areas, predominantly showed 4G. Rogers shows slightly fewer locations with more 3G locations in Ontario than either Bell or TELUS. Fido and Freedom Mobile show fewer locations still with data. While both show mostly 4G, they show 3G in similar areas to the above mentioned operators as well as on the edges of major metropolitan areas in Alberta. Vidéotron’s map shows the regional nature of the operator, though they show a strong 4G presence in areas where they did have scans.

Regional Speeds

Avg Download Mbps

33.00
70.00

There’s a sharp contrast in mobile speed averages across Canada’s provinces with the fastest, Newfoundland and Labrador, showing a download speed that’s 110.5% faster than the slowest, Yukon Territory, during Q2-Q3 2019.

Fastest Mobile Operators by City

Q2-Q3 2019

City speeds based on average speeds for all Speedtest® results. Operator speeds based on Speed Score™ for modern devices.
City Download(Mbps) Upload(Mbps) Fastest Operator Speed Score
Québec City, Québec 76.63 17.26 Bell

91.32
Calgary, Alberta 75.37 17.87 TELUS

88.67
Edmonton, Alberta 73.60 16.15 TELUS

75.09
Winnipeg, Manitoba 72.73 15.27 TELUS

88.87
London, Ontario 71.39 13.66 TELUS

95.45
Montreal, Québec 68.59 16.44 Bell

78.39
Halifax, Nova Scotia 68.06 15.84 TELUS

95.17
Toronto, Ontario 66.17 16.05 TELUS | Bell

88.99 | 88.09
Vancouver, British Columbia 65.38 16.91 Bell | TELUS

77.27 | 76.79
Ottawa, Ontario 60.55 13.51 TELUS

81.67

Québec City, Québec showed the fastest average mobile download speed among Canada’s ten most populous cities during Q2-Q3 2019. Calgary, Alberta was second; Edmonton, Alberta third; Winnipeg, Manitoba fourth and London, Ontario fifth. Ottawa, Ontario had the slowest mobile download speed on average, 21.0% slower than that in Québec City. All ten cities show average download and upload speeds that are very close to or exceed those for the country as a whole.

TELUS was the fastest provider in six of Canada’s most populous cities. Bell was fastest in two cities and Bell and TELUS tied in two.

Conclusion

Canada’s already fast mobile speeds are continuing to improve. TELUS is the fastest provider at the national level and in six of Canada’s most populous cities. 4G is solidly available in most areas. We’ll be curious to watch these speeds improve as Canadian operators slowly roll out 5G.