By Karna Gupta, President and CEO, ITAC
There has been considerable concern expressed in Canada about the prices that consumers pay for wireline and wireless telephone and internet services, so it is helpful to be able to refer to the newly released 2013 Update of the Price Comparisons of Wireline, Wireless and Internet Services in Canada and with Foreign Jurisdictions, a report that Wall Communications Inc. has prepared annually for the CRTC and Industry Canada for some years. The Wall report indicates that while Canada might not be the world-leader in terms of pricing, we do reasonably well across the board in relation to the group of countries studied, including the somewhat smaller and much more densely populated US, Here are some basic findings from the Wall report’s overview:
- Wireline: “Canadian wireline service prices compare favourably with those in the five surveyed foreign jurisdictions, generally falling in the middle of the range of prices measured for those countries.”
- Mobile Wireless: Canada’s prices for mid-volume usage falls in the middle of the group of countries surveyed, though prices for higher and lower volumes are above average.
- Broadband Internet: Canada’s prices for service of 15 Mbps or less “compare favourably with the other surveyed countries”, but only the US has higher prices for higher-speed service.
- Mobile Internet: Canada’s prices for a “service basket” of 2 GB “fall on the high side of the average” and prices for 5 GB are the highest of the five countries surveyed.
- Bundled Services: “Canadian bundled service rates fall in the middle of the group of surveyed countries. […] Canadian bundled service rates continue to compare very favourably to those in the US, where service pricing and provisioning practices are similar to those in Canada.”
So, while a degree of concern may be justified in some areas, we must remember that Canada encompasses a vast territory with a low population density, where installing and managing a national digital infrastructure more difficult and expensive than in, for example, smaller and more densely populated European countries. Nevertheless, our telecom networks are well developed and among the best in the world by any measure. Canadian consumers are particularly well served in residential markets, with near ubiquitous competitive networks for both wireless and broadband services. Basic wireless coverage extends to 99% of the population, and advanced wireless networks used to support smartphones and mobile internet sticks reach 98% of Canadians.
Having great networks is not enough, however. The services they carry have to be operated, marketed and priced so that Canadians use them. Here again, Canada is well situated, ranking favourably in terms of broadband rankings worldwide, and especially in relation to our key trading partners, as is reflected in the Wall report. Canadians have been enthusiastic users of those networks and adopters of consumer applications online, relying on them to take advantage of e-health, e-commerce, e-government, online banking and online education. In fact, we are at or near the top of the global class in terms of household penetration, in terms of broadband usage, and in terms of web usage.
It is clear that the availability of telecom networks delivering affordable wireline, wireless and broadband internet services throughout the country has allowed Canadian consumers to take advantage of the benefits of greater connectivity. Remarkably, Canada’s enviable position has been achieved largely by private-sector investment – without the massive government intervention and expenditure that has taken place elsewhere. We have much to be proud of.