Canada is one of the world’s best connected countries according to recent statistics on cell phone and internet use. Almost everyone has a mobile phone in certain age groups and landlines are fast becoming obsolete. Even the oldest generations are showing increasingly high mobile phone and internet adoption rates.
However, Canada has some of the highest prices for telecommunication and the market is not showing any signs of potential decrease.
In this article, we have collated statistics on internet and cell phone plans, the main companies in the industry, and how Canadians spend their online time.
Internet and Cell Phone Plans and Usage Statistics for Canadians
- The Canadian telecommunications market was worth $31 billion in 2020, with an average industry growth of 3.9%.
- Over 70% of the market revenue goes to the main service providers.
- A monthly internet plan costs between $30 and $170 depending on the speed and the provider.
- Canadians can get cell phone plans for as little as $15 per month, mostly suitable for people who do not use their phones to access the internet.
- Faster mobile plans with more or unlimited data can cost up to $175 per month.
- There were 33 million cell phone users in Canada in 2019.
- In 2021, there were approximately 31.88 million smartphone users in Canada, and the number is expected to reach 33 million in 2024.
- Almost three out of ten households in Canada no longer have landlines.
- 79% of Canadians have a mobile internet connection.
- In 2019, Canadians consumed on average 2.9 GB of data per month.
- 40% of Canadians spent more money on smartphones during the Covid-19 pandemic.
- Canadians spend 52% of their digital time on mobile devices.
- Reading and writing emails, online banking, and spending time on social media are the most common online activities in Canada.
- 57% of Canadians use smartphones to play games.
- Apple and Samsung are the most popular mobile phones in Canada and between them have over 80% of the cell phone market share.
Canadian telecommunications market
According to Ibis World, the wireless telecommunications market was worth $31 billion in Canada in 2020. The average industry growth between 2015 and 2020 was 3.9% while subscriptions rose by 4% and the number of fixed broadband connections grew by 2.7%.
The wireless telecommunications sector employs 33,597 people and the revenues are set to increase as even more people are increasingly switching from landline to mobile connections.
In Canada, the market is dominated by Bell, Telus, and Rogers. While consumers might have heard of other brands, such as Fido, Koodo, Virgin, and Public Mobile, they are all owned by the three major providers.
In 2019, Rogers Wireless had 10.84 million subscribers, Bell Mobility 9.96 million, and Telus Mobility 8.73 million. Other companies that had far smaller market shares were WindMobile with 1.7 million, Videotron with 1.3 million, and SaskTel Mobility with around 609,000 subscribers.
Why is the internet so expensive in Canada?
Canadians have high-quality internet networks with good reliability and speed. However, Canada also has the second most expensive internet of the G7 countries after the United States. Why is it that Canadians pay more than, for example, the British or the French?
The major internet service providers receive 73.3% of the market’s revenues and can charge higher prices because there is not enough competition. Reasons for the lack of competition include high barriers to entry, restricted foreign investments, history of privatisation, and the potential for price coordination.
Canadian internet plans compared
On average, Canadians can expect to pay between $30 and $170 per month for an internet service. The cost depends on the provider and the speed of the service.
Typically, internet speeds range from 10Mbps to 1.5Gbps depending on the provider and the network. Slower speeds are fine for households with limited internet needs, but households with multiple users and those who wish to stream content or play games, will need faster speeds.
Here are some examples of internet prices in Canada at the time of writing. According to Finder, smaller independent companies will often have cheaper plans available. However, they are often slower because they are more likely to run on cable or DSL networks rather than fibre-optic ones. They are good for users who only require the internet for basic use.
Some of the plans include Virgin’s 25Mbps plan at $55 per month, TekSavvy 6Mbps for $45.95 per month, and Acanac’s 25Mbps plan for $44 per month.
Users who need a faster connection can expect to pay a lot more for a fibre-optic network. However, these plans usually come with unlimited data. Some of the plans include Gigabit Fibe 1.5Gbps plan from Bell at $134.95 per month, Acana’s 1Gbps plan at $99 per month, and Ignite Internet Gigabit plan from Rogers at $119.99 per month.
Canadian cell phone plans compared
The cost of a cell phone plan will depend on the coverage and whether mobile data is included. Prices are higher in Canada compared to many other countries. However, prices have stabilised since government intervention in 2019.
According to HelloSafe, Canada’s three biggest providers Virgin, Fido, and Kidoo charge $45 per month for a plan with 6GB data and unlimited domestic texts and calls. The cheapest plans are by Public Mobile at $15 per month come with unlimited texts, 100 minutes of calls and 250MB of data.
Plans with more data, e.g. with 20GB of data, cost around $65 per month. Faster plans with unlimited data cost even more. For example, Rogers Mobile has plans from $85 to $175 per month for those who require more speed and more data.
Number of cell phone subscribers in Canada
In 2019, there were over 33 million mobile subscribers in Canada, according to Statista. Data from November 2020 shows that there were 92.53 mobile subscriptions per 100 inhabitants in Canada.
The number of smartphone users in Canada in 2021 was approximately 31.88 million compared to 29.88 million in 2018. The number of smartphone users is expected to reach 33 million in 2024. Canada’s smartphone user rate, 83% in 2019, is still growing as the older generations are increasing usage by 6% year by year. However, the user rate will plateau at some point.
The rise of cell phone user numbers has been rapid, as in 2013 60% of Canadians under the age of 35 reported using only a cell phone in their household compared to 26% in 2008.
Latest statistics show that 86.1% of households in Canada have at least one smartphone and only 71.9% of households still have a landline service. The residents of Alberta are most likely to have a smartphone at 93.4% and the ownership is the lowest in Quebec, with 79% of households having at least one smartphone.
Canadians living in New Brunswick are the most likely to still have a landline with 84.1% having one, while Albertans have been the fastest to get rid of landlines with only 65.2% of households still subscribing to one.
Mobile internet use in Canada
Trends show that Canadians are increasingly moving away from desktop usage and turning into mobile internet users. The mobile internet user penetration in Canada is 79% and it is expected to grow to 86.1% by 2025. The share of internet traffic from mobile devices has grown by 47%.
Data usage in Canada
In 2019, Canadians consumed on average 2.9 GB of data per month. This figure represents a 45% increase since 2017. Over half of Canadians, at 56.5%. had mobile data plans of 5 GB or higher in 2019.
Canada’s unlimited data plans have been ranked number one among the G7 countries, plus Australia, for their speed, access, and latency.
Canadians’ spending on smartphones increased during the Covid-19 pandemic
According to data from Mobile Syrup, 40% of Canadians spent more money on smartphones during the pandemic. 44% of Canadians also spent more on online technology.
People responding to the Mobile Syrup survey said they spent more money on video streaming services and home and mobile internet services during the pandemic. At the same time, 96% of Canadians said they spent less money on short-term rentals.
Most of the digital time in Canada is spent on mobile devices
Studies on smartphone usage show that Canadians spend 52% of their digital time on mobile devices. This is less than in the United States, for example, where 61% of digital time is spent on mobile devices.
Millennials are the most likely to spend more of their digital time on mobile devices at 60%. They are also the most likely age group to own a smartphone with 95% of the generation having one. The time Canadian Millennials spend on mobile devices is around 3.2 hours per day, which equals almost one full day per week.
How do Canadians use their time online?
Checking or writing emails is the most common online activity in Canada with 90% of Canadians saying they write and check emails. The next popular activities are online banking at 71% and spending time on social media at 61%. Reading the news online is almost as popular as social media, with 58% of Canadians saying they use a digital device to read the news.
On average, 50% of Canadians shop online, although this figure was higher during the pandemic. 48% use the internet just for browsing and 47% for instant messaging. Almost half of Canadians at 45% use the internet to research travel options and 44% research products before buying. 40% are using their online time to watch videos, movies, and TV.
While 57% of Canadians across all age groups say they use smartphones to play games, the percentage is around 70% for Canadians under 34. 30% of mobile gamers in Canada spend money on games and 6% spend over $250 in an average year.
Apple or Samsung?
Although there are Canadians who own other cell phones than Apple or Samsung, those two are the most popular brands in the market. In January 2021, Apple was the most dominant brand with a 52,93% market share, while Samsung had 28.16% of the market. Huawei came third with 6.86%, followed by Google with 2,86%, LG with 2.76%, and Motorola with 1.4%
Across all the age groups, 5% of the Canadian cell phone users prefer Apple over Samsung. However, in the younger age groups, the preference is 43%. Among the millennials, 62% of cell phone users have an Apple device and 19% a Samsung device.
However, Samsung is more popular among the older groups with 12% of baby boomers preferring them over Apple phones.
Mobile users in British Columbia, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta are more likely to choose Apple with 42% of users having an Apple phone and 30% a Samsung cell phone. Among the users in Atlantic Canada, the figures are reversed with 42% for Samsung and 30% for Apple.
In 2020, there were 92.53 mobile subscriptions per 100 inhabitants and the smartphone user rate in 2021 was 83%. The smartphone market in Canada is still growing mainly because the usage among the older generations is still increasing year by year.
The most common online activities in Canada include checking and sending emails, doing online banking and time on social media. The Canadian cell phone market is dominated by Apple with over 50% of the market share.
While Canadians have access to some of the most reliable and fastest internet and cell phone networks in the world, Canadians pay considerably more for their internet and cell phone plans than people in other countries. The prices in Canada are kept high due to the lack of competition and the market being dominated by a handful of companies.
The prices have stabilised in recent years. However, they are unlikely to come down unless there is more competition over customers.
Frequently Asked Questions
In 2019, there were 33 million cell phone users in Canada and in 2021, 31.88 million were smartphone users.
The price of internet plans depends on the speed and the provider. They also vary between provinces and territories. However, on the average, they cost between $30 and $170 per month.
The market was worth $31 billion in 2020.
Cheapest monthly prices for cell phone plans start at $15 per month. Most expensive plans cost around $175 per month. The price depends on speed of connection, the amount of data, and the provider.
Yes, Canadians still have landlines, but their number is declining. Almost three out of ten households in Canada no longer have landlines.