Sascha Segan, PCMag’s Lead Analyst, Mobile, wrote an extensive twenty-four page article in the latest edition of PCMag on the state of affairs of the Fastest Mobile Networks Canada 2014, and using his findings we will touch on some of the highlights of those many pages that may interest our many Canadian readers. Overall, we can offer a quick summary in one statement: The Canadian 4G LTE networks are blazing fast, but you pay for that with some of the highest monthly plans found worldwide and while the regional carriers offer a much cheaper monthly plan and great service…once you leave their region, the service drops off extensively. Okay, it was a long statement, but it does sum up their findings.
I will not go into all of the details of how the testing was done, but suffice to say that PCMag did their due diligence in driving all over Canada armed with HTC One M8’s that HTC donated for the testing. They tested for upload and download speeds, not for connectivity, dropped calls, call quality, etc. They also made it quite clear that this test is a “snapshot” of a moment in time and that if the test was redone today, the results may be different. Carriers are constantly upgrading, opening new towers, buying more modern equipment, adding more spectrum, not to mention the constantly changing load of subscribers – all of this make the networks a ‘living’ thing, always growing and changing.
It is also obvious that Bell and Rodgers are duking it out for the number one spot on a city-by-city basis. Each carrier has a particular strength – Rogers’ download speeds are unmatched across most of Canada and are the fastest in Canada, but Bell is a more balanced network for downloading and uploading speeds. The other third of the Big Three, Telus, suffers from what they call “network configuration issues,” because it lacks the 2600MHz spectrum that boosts both Rogers and Bell’s speeds. When it comes to 3G, Bell actually fared slightly better than Rogers and Telus, but for the purposes of this article, we will concentrate on 4G. Part of the article educates us on exactly how fast is 4G – we have so many HSPA+, 4G, LTE, etc., and the carriers use these symbols to confuse us. Let us set the record straight: Level 1: HSPA+21 is the slowest system available and WIND’s network is still mostly this type, so it cannot stream high-quality videos.
Level 2: HSPA+42 is what Bell, Telus and Rogers cover most of the country with – it offers decent, but inconsistent download speeds and slow upload speeds. To show the importance of how a network is built out can matter, they took a look at Videotron’s HSPA+42 network and found that it had downloads twice as fast as the large carriers.
Level 3: LTE is where we finally get into home broadband type speeds and is the true “gold standard” for true 4G – in Canada that can mean speeds of 12-40Mbps average download speeds and uploads of 5-12Mbps. LTE mostly covers the urban areas the most, however, that is changing as they start to build out the 700MHz spectrum. The 700MHz signal can travel further distances and can go through buildings and penetrate deeper, however, it doesn’t help increasing the speed.
Level 4: 2600MHz Band 7 LTE delivers the fastest speed you can get at this point in technology – 115Mbps was observed in Vancouver, but as soon as you moved a few blocks from the tower, the speed dropped dramatically. It is important to use this technology in crowded urban areas, especially around universities and stadiums – it will help the regular LTE bands not get so crowded. And for us Android folk – most flagship Android devices support the 2600MHz LTE, however the iPhone 5, 5s and 5c do not support Band 7.
When you live in Canada, there is a remarkable 90-percent chance that you will be using Bell, Rogers or Telus networks – is it any wonder they can demand a higher price for their services. If you can put up with a little poorer coverage or a little slower speed, then you can save yourself about $30 or more per month. Take a look at the charts below and you can see how much the prices change depending if you are on one of the Big Three or one of the regional carriers.
It is a little too obvious how close the prices are between the Big Three – it’s like they all met for lunch and came up with a price schedule. Then drop down to the smaller, generally prepaid carriers, and look how the monthly fees drop. If you live and stay in your own providence, then it would definitely benefit you to use a regional carrier. PCMag’s said that if you live in Manitoba use MTS, SaskTel in Saskatchewan, Videotron in Quebec, Eastlink in Nova Scotia, PEI and Newfoundland.
Ontario, Alberta, British Columbia and the North are not in a good situation because while Wind’s prices are much better than the Big Three, their service is below par. Mobilicity is falling into bankruptcy and New Brunswick is the most “mobile-deprived” province and has no fourth option at all.
The Big Three rates are about the same as Verizon and AT&T in the U.S., however, Canada does not have an equivalent to Sprint or T-Mobile – national networks that offer better rates. The smaller carriers in Canada do not cover the nation, only certain regions and this is why the Government is desperately trying to ‘create’ a T-Mobile in Canada…without luck I might add.
Please hook up with us on our Google+ Page and let us know what you think of your Canada’s wireless service. Would you rather have the fastest and best coverage and pay more for that privilege or would you be willing to give up some service and speed to save money…as always we would love to hear from you.