Canadian mobile subscribers who live in rural parts of the country benefit from having some of the fastest download speeds in the world. They also have access to 4G networks close to 90% of the time, which is a percentage more commonly seen by users residing in more populated areas. In addition, rural users in Canada on the networks of Telus, Bell Mobility and Rogers have download speeds that surpass those experienced by users in most countries.
In this insight, Opensignal analyzed the data of users on the three nationwide mobile operators in Canada —Telus, Bell Mobility and Rogers — to see how rural users’ mobile experience differs from that of urban users. Specifically, we examined Download Speed Experience and 4G Availability during the first quarter of 2020 as compared to the first quarter of 2019.
At the country level, Canadian users saw their Download Speed Experience increase by 40.1% in the past year, as noted in our State of Mobile Network Experience 2020 report. But when we looked specifically at Opensignal users in rural Canada we found that those on Telus and Bell Mobility’s networks saw dramatic jumps in their download speeds. Our rural users on Telus’ network saw their download speeds increase by 70.7% in the first quarter of 2020 as compared to the first quarter of 2019 and our rural users on Bell Mobility’s network saw their download speeds jump by 53.2% during the same time period.
For this analysis we compared the mobile network experience of rural users, which make up almost 20% of the country’s population, to urban users. We classified Canada’s territory using the definition of Population Center (PC) as defined by the national statistics office, which also defines all areas outside population centers as rural areas. Statistics Canada categorizes the population centers by three types — small (between 1,000 and 29,999 inhabitants), medium (between 30,000 and -99,999 inhabitants) and large (with 100,000 or more people).
At the time of our analysis, Canada was just starting to take preventative measures to combat the spread of COVID-19. In mid-March all Canadian provinces declared a state of emergency and implemented school and daycare closures as well as closures to non-essential businesses. Most of our analysis took place before the closures, however, so Canadian users that were impacted in mid-March likely had a much better mobile network experience than they would have had a year ago.
Small PCs also saw a big increase in their Download Speed Experience. Opensignal users in Small PCs on Rogers’ network saw their download speeds increase by 48.8% from first-quarter 2019 to first-quarter 2020 and Opensignal users in Small PCs on Telus’ network saw a 42.7% increase during that same time period.
Likewise, Large PCs and Medium PCs also saw sizable increases in their Download Speed Experiences. Opensignal users on Telus’ network in Large PCs have the overall fastest average download speeds of 99.9 Mbps and its users also saw the biggest increase (43%) from 69.9 Mbps in first-quarter 2019 to 99.9 Mbps in the same quarter of 2020. And Opensignal users on Telus’ network in Medium PCs saw the biggest increase (45.5%) from 57.3 Mbps in the first quarter of 2019 to 83.3 Mbps in the first quarter of 2020.
Astoundingly, rural Canadian users have far better download speeds than users in five of the seven G7 countries in the world. In our State of the Mobile Network Experience Report 2020, we found Opensignal users in Germany have average download speeds of 28.7 Mbps, users in France have download speeds of 28.6 Mbps, users in the U.S. have download speeds of 26.7 Mbps, users in Italy have download speeds of 24.3 Mbps and users in the U.K have download speeds of just 22.9 Mbps. Speeds for Canadian users on each of the three networks — Bell, Telus and Rogers — are between 20% and 110% faster than the overall speeds of users in five G7 countries. Among the G7, only Japanese users experienced a higher speed than some rural Canadians, with an overall download speed of 49.3 Mbps.
4G Availability improves
In the past year Opensignal’s users in rural Canada also experienced improvements in 4G Availability, which measures the proportion of time 4G users spend connected to 4G. In rural Canada, users on Rogers’ network saw the biggest improvement with a score of 89.2%, an 8 percentage point improvement from a year ago when it had the lowest 4G Availability of all the operators with a score of 81.2%.
Opensignal users in Medium PCs also saw improvements in 4G Availability with Rogers users seeing an increase in 2.7 percentage points from a year ago for a score of 95.6%. Interestingly, Opensignal users on Bell Mobility’s network in Medium PCs enjoy 4G Availability of 96.3%, which is slightly higher than the 4G Availability experienced by Bell Mobility users in Large PCs (95.8%).
In the Small PC category, our Rogers users saw the largest growth, with a 5.6 percentage point increase from a year ago to 94.2% Availability.
Despite the improvements, Opensignal users in rural Canada still have significantly lower 4G Availability than those in the most populated urban areas of Canada. Telus is ahead in the large PC category where its users have a 4G Availability of 96.7% — a 2 percentage point increase over its score in the previous year.
Canada’s rural and overall mobile experience is top of the world
Canadian users have some of the best download speeds in the world — and those fast speeds aren’t exclusive to just those that reside in large cities. Rural users in Canada on the networks of Telus, Bell Mobility and Rogers have download speeds that surpass those experienced by users in most countries around the world. In fact, in Opensignal’s State of Mobile Network Experience 2020 report, where we examined download speeds of more than 100 countries, 85 of those countries had average download speeds that are significantly lower than the 34.4 Mbps observed by rural Canadian users on Rogers’ network.
Canadian users also have the advantage of having strong 4G Availability. In the country’s largest cities, Opensignal users on the three national networks enjoy 4G Availability of 95.8% and higher and in rural areas, they have observed 4G Availability of 88.3% and higher. The latter figure is significantly higher than that seen for 63 of the 100 countries we analyzed in our State of Mobile Network Experience report.
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