Communications Monitoring Report
LTE and Broadband Availability
On this page
- Mobile coverage and availability
- Broadband coverage and availability
- Coverage Maps
- Datasets available on Open Data
i. Mobile coverage and availability
For over a decade, more than 99% of Canadians have had access to mobile services, provided using various network technologies. However, the coverage availability by technologies such as HSPA+, LTE and LTE ‑A, varied significantly among the provinces and the North. For example, 97.9% of Albertans but only 76.8% of Newfoundlandians and Labradorians had access to LTE-A in 2019. Access to mobile services reflects, among other things, the investments made by the industry to provide coverage across the country, to foster innovation and to create a more competitive marketplace.
The availability of technologies such as LTE and LTE-A generally results in faster download and upload speeds and lower latency. This enhances the consumer experience, especially for consumers using data-intensive applications.
Anticipation continues to grow around the introduction of 5G which had been announced throughout 2019. However, limited capital expenditures were reported in 2019, and 5G has yet to be made readily available to Canadians across Canada. The CRTC will be monitoring progress on this front to provide updates in future reports.
With respect to network choice, Canadians in most provinces had access to two or three facilities-based networks; however, those in the North (Yukon, Northwest Territories, and Nunavut) generally had access to only one network. In 2019, 96.8% of Prince Edward Islanders had a choice of at least three facilities-based networksFootnote 2, while only 3.2% of Saskatchewanians had access to the same number of facilities-based networks. Coverage availability by the number of facilities-based networks, by province, can be found on Open Data.
The penetration rate represents the number of subscribers as a percentage of the population. This metric reflects, among other things, the saturation and maturity of the marketplace, service providers’ ability to successfully market and sell their services, a population’s willingness to adopt mobile communications and the potential for future growth. Penetration rates by province and territory can be found in Open Data.
WiFi hotspots are an important service that telecommunications service providers (TSPs) use to differentiate their services from each other and to extend their brands. Hotspots are locations where Internet access is offered to the public via 802.11 WiFi technology. In 2019, there were 51,001 hotspots available throughout the country and only 1.5% (750) of them required paid access.
Over 99% of Canadians have access to LTE networks, but this availability varies by location. Canadians living in urban centres and in the provinces have greater access to these networks than those living in rural communities and or the territories, as is evident in the two figures below.
In 2013, LTE was available to over 92% of Canadians living in urban centres compared to only 35.4% in rural communities; it took over five years for LTE to reach nearly the same access availability in both urban centres and rural communities. As carriers continue to invest in their networks, more people will have access to advanced mobile networks regardless where one lives.
|Mobile population coverage||LTE population coverage||Penetration rate|
|2014 – Top 3||98.5%||91.8%||72.2%|
|2014 – Other providers||72.0%||30.7%||8.2%|
|2019 – Top 3||99.0%||98.8%||80.2%|
|2019 – Other providers||80.2%||79.6%||10.8%|
Generally, the Top 3 and the other providers try to extend their service coverage across Canada in a cost‑efficient manner by entering into sharing arrangements for support structures, antenna sites and networks as well as by establishing roaming arrangements. Roaming arrangements enable subscribers to have access to service outside their mobile service provider’s home network, while network sharing arrangements also share the cost of building an extensive nationwide network. If a subscriber is outside its service provider’s network and is connected to another WSPs’ network, then the subscriber is said to be “roaming”.
The figure below show the percentage of voice minutes and data traffic (excluding SMS and MMS traffic), derived from roaming in Canada, in the United States and internationally. Roaming voice calls and data traffic continued to decline in Canada and the United States however is increasing internationally.
Canada’s wireless service market is dominated by the Top 3. They provide significantly more coverage and achieve higher subscriber penetration rates than the other providers in almost every province and territory, Saskatchewan being a notable exception. In 2019, the Top 3 and other providers offered coverage to 99.0% and 80.2% of the population, respectively. There was also a similar disparity between the two groups with respect to Canada‑wide LTE coverage. For LTE , the Top 3 and other providers offered coverage to 98.8% and 79.6% of the population respectively.
The disparity between the Top 3 and other providers was also evident in penetration rates. From 2015 to 2019, the Top 3’s subscriber base grew from 73.7% of the population to 80.2%, while the other service providers’ base increased at slightly a faster pace, from 8.3% of the population to 10.8% over the same period.
ii. Broadband coverage and availability
|Availability of 50/10 Mbps with unlimited data||2018||2019|
|Rural households relied solely on fixed wireless technology (i.e. no access to broadband service via wireline)||27.2%||26.7%|
|LTE-A to population||94.9%||96.0%|
|Households with only access to broadband satellite||1.4%||1.1%|
Broadband deployment continued to improve. Rural broadband availability of speeds 50Mbps and higher saw the greatest improvements, growing from 43.0% to 65.4%. Broadband availability in First Nations reserves also saw significant growth, rising from 32.3% to 46.5%. The Commission’s target of 50 Mbps download, 10 Mbps upload, and unlimited data transfer capacity was available to 98.6% of the population in urban areas, an increase from 97.7% in 2018, and 45.6% of the population in rural areas, an increase from 40.8% in 2018.
According to the Broadband Measurement Project, the majority of broadband service offerings in Canada met or exceeded their advertised speeds, regardless of the access technology used. More details of this project and the results of the first phase can be found on the CRTC website, in the Broadband Measurement Project section.
Unless otherwise noted, broadband service availability figures exclude wireless mobile technology. “Satellite access services” in this section refer to direct-to-home (DTH) satellite, and not to the technology used to connect communities to the Internet.
|Type of Service||Subtype||2016||2017||2018||2019|
|Wireline and fixed wireless||Total||98.4||98.7||98.8||98.9|
|Universal service objective||50 Mbps download 10 Mbps upload unlimited data transfer option||84.3||84.1||85.7||87.4|
Notes: The vast majority of areas that had 50/10 Mbps service also had unlimited monthly data transfer options. Mobile availability is depicted as a percentage of population.
Fibre-based Internet service availability continued to increase, going from 44.0% in 2018 to 44.7% in 2019. These FTTH deployments occurred mainly in large urban areas. Incumbent TSPs used their fibre infrastructure to make gigabit service available to over 6.9 million households, while cable-based carriers used mainly DOCSIS 3.1 technology to make gigabit service available to over 6.5 million households. However, in general, fibre-based gigabit services have far faster upload speeds than their DOCSIS-based counterparts.
Incumbent TSPs and other non-traditional television providers continued to increase the availability of IP technology-based television service (IPTV), proving a source of competition to traditional cable-based systems, while leveraging their broadband infrastructure to provide services outside of Internet and legacy phone service.
Services at speeds meeting or exceeding the Commission’s target of 50 Mbps download and 10 Mbps upload with unlimited monthly data transfer were available to 87.4% of Canadian households. However, the availability varied greatly between urban and rural areas, with only 45.6% of rural households having access to this kind of service, versus 98.6% in urban areas. Subscriptions to a 50/10 Mbps service with unlimited monthly data transfer increased to 35.4% of Canadian households in 2019, compared to 29.0% in 2018.
The total footprint for all areas with access to broadband service speeds between 25 Mbps and above and 200 Mbps and above saw improvement in 2019. The drop in gigabit service availability in 2019 is attributed to improvements in data accuracy.
Availability of broadband by province and territory
Availability of higher-speed broadband services (≥50Mbps) varied by province and territory. Alberta, Manitoba, British Columbia, and Quebec had the highest availability of 50 Mbps+ service, while the North, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland and Labrador, had the least coverage at the same speed.
In 2019, Newfoundland and Labrador saw the greatest improvement in gigabit broadband service availability. Gigabit service was available to 68.8% of households in Newfoundland and Labrador in 2019, an increase from 59.2% in the previous year. From 2018 to 2019, households in Ontario also saw considerable improvement, increasing from 77.3% to 83.1%.
The vast majority of areas that had broadband service had access to speeds of 5 Mbps or faster. Nunavut saw substantial growth in household availability of 5 Mbps or faster service, growing from 49.7% to 99.6% but did not have access to speeds of 25 Mbps or faster.
|Province/Territory||5 Mbps +||25 Mbps +||50 Mbps +||50/10/ unlimited||100 Mbps +||Gigabit|
|Prince Edward Island||95.1||90.0||86.2||61.3||61.3||59.3|
|Newfoundland and Labrador||91.1||82.6||82.4||73.9||73.6||68.8|
Because satellite service has a national footprint, it is excluded from this table.
Availability of broadband in various communities
|Availability of 50/10 Mbps with unlimited data transfer||2019|
|First Nations reserves||34.8%|
For the purposes of this report, the official language minority population is defined in terms of the first official language spoken metric as defined within the Official Languages Act, using data from the 2016 Census. In all provinces and territories except Quebec, the official language having minority status is French. The presence of official language minority populations within a 25km area of an official minority language school was used to model and map OLMCs.
First Nations reserve areas, representing total population and dwellings on reserves according to Statistics Canada, were used in the analysis, as such, it may differ from other official sources.
As previously stated, services at speeds meeting or exceeding the Commission’s target of 50 Mbps download and 10 Mbps upload with unlimited monthly data transfer were available to 87.4% of Canadian households. However, rural and small centre populations continued to trail behind the urban population in terms of availability of these broadband services, with only 45.6% of rural households having access to these, and small population centres having 93.1% availability. This is in contrast to the near-ubiquitous availability of such services in medium and large centres. Although there is a gap in availability of 50/10/unlimited service between urban and rural, this divide is shrinking.
In 2019, 90.6% of the OLMC population across Canada had access to 50/10/unlimited Internet service with OLMC’s in British-Columbia and Alberta leading with 97.5% and 93.9% availability, respectively.
Availability of 50/10/unlimited service in First Nations reserves was behind rural areas with only 34.8% having access to this service. This service was not accessible to First Nations reserves in Newfoundland and Labrador, Yukon, and Northwest Territories.
Advancements in the deployment of rural broadband were mainly for 50+ Mbps speeds, increasing from 43.0% to 65.4% availability for 50 Mbps or faster. Deployments in lower-speed categories did not increase as appreciably, due to being centred mainly on already-built areas with slower service speeds.
Compared to the rest of the country and official language minority communities (OLMC) populations, availability of broadband Internet service at speeds of 50 Mbps and above was not as prevalent in rural areas and First Nations reserves. There was a notable drop in availability for these communities for offerings of 50 Mbps and above. Less than half of households in rural areas and First Nations reserves had broadband services available at speeds 100 Mbps and above.
In 2019, 87.1% of households in First Nations reserves were able to access broadband Internet services with a speed of at least 5 Mbps. Availability decreases to below half of households at speeds of 50 Mbps or faster and to less than a third at speeds of 100 Mbps or faster.
Availability varied significantly across provinces and territories, with households in First Nations reserves in New Brunswick and British Columbia having the highest availability of Internet services at speeds of 50 Mbps or faster (95.3% and 70.1%, respectively), while these services were not yet available to households in First Nations reserves in the North as well as Newfoundland and Labrador.
Broadband Internet services were almost universally available to all official language minority communities (OLMCs) in 2019. British Columbia and Manitoba had the highest percentage of coverage of speeds greater than 50 Mbps while Nova Scotia and Prince Edwards Island had the lowest, where broadband services with speeds of at least 25 Mbps were not yet available to households in OLMCs in Nunavut.
In 2019, the Commission’s target of 50/10 unlimited was available to 87.4% of all households in Canada with medium and large urban populations having nearly complete coverage and less than half (45.6%) of households in rural areas having coverage. While 34.8% of households in First Nations reserves had access to Internet services meeting the Commission’s target speed and unlimited data transfer, 90.6% of households in OLMCs had access to such services.
|All||Large Population Centres||Medium Population Centres||Small Population Centres||Rural||First Nations Reserves||OLMCs|
|Prince Edward Island||61.3||n/a||100.0||100.0||33.3||30.4||61.0|
|Newfoundland and Labrador||73.9||99.9||n/a||90.9||49.6||0.0||76.1|
iii. Coverage Maps
For the following maps, the data is available for export through the Cartovista Data panel using the Export button; the Data panel is available on the bottom left-hand side of the map. Detailed instructions on how to use Cartovista maps are available on the Cartovista website.
iv. Datasets available on Open Data
There is an Excel workbook and a CSV zip related to this report that have been published on the Open Data portal. They contain the data found in the infographics, figures and tables in this section of the CMR, in addition to supplementary datasets (C-S1 to C-S13) that originate from earlier editions of the CMR.
Instructions: Use the table below to search for datasets available on Open Data that are related to this section of the CMR. When you have found the dataset, go to the Find a CMR Dataset page and download the workbook, Data - LTE and Broadband Availability. Search for the ‘tab name’ in the Excel workbook tabs to locate the data.
|C-I1||Highlights of mobile coverage|
|C-I2||Mobile coverage, Top 3 and other service providers|
|C-I3||Overview of broadband Internet service availability|
|C-I4||Points of interest in broadband Internet service availability for various communities|
|C-F1||Number of free WiFi hotspots in Canada, by region|
|C-F2||LTE population coverage in Canada, urban centres vs rural communities (%)|
|C-F3||LTE population coverage, by region, urban centres vs rural communities (%)|
|C-F4||LTE coverage of major roads and highways (%), by region|
|C-F5||Roaming voice and data traffic by destination (%)|
|C-F6||Subscriber penetration rates as a percentage of total population (%)|
|C-F7||Broadband service availability by speed (% of households)|
|C-F8||Broadband service availability – urban versus rural (% of households)|
|C-F9||Broadband availability across Canada compared to OLMCs, rural communities and First Nations reserves by speed (% of households)|
|C-F10||First Nations reserve broadband service availability, by speed and province/territory (% of households)|
|C-F11||OLMC broadband service availability, by speed and province/territory (% of households)|
|C-T1||Key telecommunications availability indicators (% of households for wireline services and % of population for wireless services)|
|C-T2||Broadband service availability, by speed and province/territory (% of households)|
|C-T3||Availability of Internet services with speeds of 50/10Mbps and unlimited data, by population size and province/territory (% of households)|
|C-S1||LTE mobile service coverage, as a percent of total households (%)|
|C-S2||Top 3 vs Other service providers' LTE coverage as a percentage of total population (%)|
|C-S3||HSPA+, LTE and LTE-A mobile service coverage, as a percent of total population, by province/region (%)|
|C-S4||Percent of population covered by number of different facilities-based wireless networks, by province and territory (%)|
|C-S5||Percent of population covered by number of different facilities-based LTE wireless networks, by province and territory (%)|
|C-S6||Major roads and highways LTE coverage in Canada|
|C-S7||Major roads and highways LTE coverage in Canada, by province/territory and road rank|
|C-S8||Gigabit service availability, by province/territory (% of households)|
|C-S9||Broadband service availability vs. subscriptions by province/territory (% of households)|
|C-S10||Broadband service availability at 50/10 Mbps, with unlimited data, by province/territory and size of population center (% of households)|
|C-S11||Availability of broadband in OLMCs, by speed and province/territory (% of population)|
|C-S12||Availability of broadband Internet service via satellite (% of households)|
|C-S13||Distance between First Nations Reserves and the closest fibre point of presence (PoP) with at least 1 Gbps capacity|
Top 3 mobile service providers
Throughout the mobile section, the Top 3 refers to Bell (Bell Group), Telus and Rogers; this includes the statistics of the flanker brands even where the Top 3 and their flanker brands are reported side by side for comparison. Flanker information has also been reported, where available, to allow more granular comparison with the other providers and report potential trends when viewed through a competitive lens. Approximately 1% of the flanker brand information contains data from a company not included in the Top 3.
Broadband service availability: methodology
Broadband service availability is calculated using information provided by ISPs. For 2013 to 2015, locations were considered to be serviced if their dissemination blockFootnote 3 representative point fell within an area of broadband service coverage. As of 2016, ISED pseudo-householdsFootnote 4 are used, along with 2016 census demography. Thus, among other factors, newer, more accurate information about the extent of deployment may have slightly reduced coverage in some areas.
Broadband service availability data may not take into account capacity issues or issues regarding line of sightFootnote 5.
Mobile service availability: methodology
Between 2013 and 2017, locations were considered to be serviced if the representative point for their dissemination block fell within an area of mobile service coverage.
Since 2018, ISED pseudo-households were used along with 2016 census demography. Pseudo-households are points representing the population in an area. These points are placed along roadways within each area, and the population of the area, as determined by Statistics Canada, is distributed among these points. Additional data regarding addresses and the position of dwellings is used to guide this distribution. The use of pseudo-households aims to improve the accuracy of the availability indicators rather than making an assumption that the population within an area is located at the centre of that area.
Official language minority communities
To identify official language minority communities (OLMCs) in Canada, a number of different criteria can be used. These include identifying the first language learned at home, the language spoken at home, and the language of education.
For the purposes of this report, the official language minority population is defined in terms of the first official language spoken metric as defined within the Official Languages Act, using data from the 2016 Census. In all provinces and territories except Quebec, the official language having minority status is French.
The presence of official language minority populations within a 25km area of an official minority language school was used to model and map OLMCs.
As a means of mapping OLMCs and calculating the availability of 50/10 Mbps unlimited service, a method of OLMC population placement was chosen that concentrates on areas within 25 km of official language minority schools to represent the locations of the communities. This methodology, which was developed by Canadian Heritage, was used to assign OLMC populations to areas and to calculate 50/10 Mbps unlimited availability to OLMC communities.
First Nations reserve areas
The analysis of broadband availability and availability of 50/10 Mbps unlimited service was based upon First Nations reserve areas, representing total population and dwellings on reserves according to the Statistics Canada census data and, as such, it may differ from other official sources.
Statistics Canada uses census subdivisions to represent different areas in Canada. Census subdivisions are municipalities or areas that can be equated to municipalities for statistical purposes.
The different census subdivisions used by Statistics Canada were assessed. Those that represent First Nations reserve areas were used in the data analysis and mapping of this population.
Small population centres are considered to have populations of between 1,000 and 29,999. Medium population centres are considered to have populations of between 30,000 and 99,999. Large population centres are considered to have populations greater than 100,000. Rural areas have populations of less than 1,000, or fewer than 400 people per square kilometre.
Urban centres and rural communities
Urban centres, also known as small/medium/large population centres, are defined as follows: small centres have populations between 1,000 and 29,999, medium centres have populations between 30,000 and 99,999, and large centres have populations greater than 100,000. For the purposes of this report, data for urban centres reports the average of small/medium/large centres.
Rural communities are defined as areas with a population of less than 1,000 or a density of 400 or fewer people per square kilometre.
Average capital expenditure per user (ACEPU) is a measure of the expenditures generated per subscriber. It is computed by using only data from companies who supplied both capital expenditure and subscriber data, excluding spectrum expenditures. An end-of-year subscriber figure was used in the computation rather than an average number of subscribers during the year.
Average revenue per user (ARPU) is a measure of revenue generated per subscriber. This is calculated by dividing the whole-year total revenue by the average number of subscribers from the current and previous year. The number of subscribers is taken from year end data.
Cable-based carriers are former cable monopolies that also provide telecommunications services (e.g. wireline voice, Internet, data and private line, and wireless services). Examples of cable-based carriers include Rogers, Shaw, and Videotron.
A dissemination block is an area bounded on all sides by roads and/or boundaries of standard geographic areas. The dissemination block is the smallest geographic area for which population and dwelling counts are disseminated. Dissemination blocks cover all the territory of Canada.
The estimated number of households in Canada is calculated by dividing the 4th quarter population estimate for Canada by Statistics Canada by the population to dwelling ratio. In turn, the population to dwelling ratio is calculated by dividing the population of Canada by the number of households found in the Statistics Canada Census 2016.
Fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) refers to fibre optic communication delivery system where fibre extends from a concentrator, remote or central office to a residence.
Fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) is the equivalent of FTTH but refers to fibre extending to a business instead of a residence.
Flanker brands are brands introduced into the wireless market by an entity that already has a well-established main brand. In the Canadian market, these include brands such as Virgin Mobile and Lucky Mobile (Bell), Fido and Chatr (Rogers), Koodo and Public Mobile (TELUS), and Fizz (Vidéotron). Starting in 2019, Fizz was added to the list of flankers and therefore, this category is no longer referred to as “Top 3’s flanker brands.”
HSPA, HSPA+, LTE , LTE-Advanced (LTE-A), 5G: High-Speed Packet Access (HSPA) and Long-Term Evolution (LTE ) are the protocols or standards used for communications between a mobile phone and cell towers in mobile networks. HSPA is also referred to as 3G (third generation) cellular while LTE is referred to a 4G (fourth generation) cellular. HSPA+, or evolved High-Speed Packet Access, is a form of HSPA that uses technical measures to provide faster transmission speeds. LTE is the current standard that is now widely deployed in most mobile networks, while LTE-Advanced (LTE-A) is an enhancement of the LTE standard. 5G (NR) New Radio is a new radio access technology (RAT) that is referred to as the fifth generation. These networks promise to deliver significantly faster speeds, lower latency, and gains in spectral efficiency than prior generational networks, among other benefits.
An Incumbent Telecommunications Service Provider (TSP) is a company that provides local telecommunications services on a monopoly basis prior to the introduction of competition. Examples of incumbent TSPs include Bell, SaskTel and TELUS. They also include small incumbent TSPs such as Sogetel and Execulink.
An independent Internet service provider (ISP) refers to ISPs that are not cable-based carriers or incumbent TSPs.
Major transportation roads were defined by the Commission in Telecom Regulatory Policy 2018-377 as roads that correspond to Statistics Canada’s street rank codes 1 through 3.
Official Language Minority Population refers to English speaking population in Quebec and French-speaking population in the rest of Canada. More than two million Canadians belong to an official language minority community.
Other facilities-based carriers refers to providers of telecommunications services that are not incumbent providers but which own and operate telecommunications networks. Examples of other facilities-based carriers include Xplornet and Allstream Business.
Other service providers include SaskTel, other small incumbent TSPs (telecommunications service providers), certain resellers, and the remaining new entrants (Freedom Mobile, Videotron (including its flanker brand) and Bragg Communications [Eastlink]) and their applicable subsidiaries.
Pseudo-households refers to points representing the population in an area. These points are placed along roadways within each area, and the population of the area, determined by Statistics Canada, is distributed among these points. Additional data regarding addresses and the position of dwellings is used to guide this distribution.
The use of pseudo-households aims to improve the accuracy of the availability indicators over the use of the assumption that the population within an area is located at the centre of the area.
The top three mobile service providers (Top 3), in terms of revenues and subscribers, consists of the Bell Group, Rogers and TELUS. The Bell Group includes Bell Canada, Bell Mobility, Bell MTS, KMTS, Latitude Wireless, NorthernTel Limited Partnership, Northwestel Mobility and Télébec, Limited Partnership. In 2017, MTS Inc.’s figures were included with those of the Bell Group. In 2015, Data & Audio Visual Enterprises Wireless Inc.’s (i.e. Mobilicity, which then became Chatr) figures were included with those of Rogers. From 2013 on, Public Mobile’s figures were included with those of TELUS. Throughout this section, the flanker brands are a subset of the Top 3, unless otherwise stated.
Wholesale-based service providers or non-facilities-based service carriers refers to companies that generally acquire telecommunications services from other providers and either resell those services or create their own network from which to provide services to their customers. A company that owns a small number of facilities but has the vast majority of its operations on leased facilities may also be classified as non-facilities-based. Examples of wholesale-based service providers and non-facilities-based carriers include Distributel and TekSavvy.
A reserve refers to land set aside by the federal government through the Indian Act or through treaties for the use of a specific band or First Nation. The band council has "exclusive user rights" to the land, but the land is "owned" by the Crown. The Indian Act states that this land cannot be owned by individual band members.
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