PC Magazine did their third annual speed test in Canada looking for the fastest overall network and it was no surprise that the Big Three – Rogers, Bell and Telus – all topped the list. But there has to be a winner and last year's testing showed the Rogers and Bell were tied for the fastest internet speed, but for 2015, they said, "Bell is clearly Canada's fastest mobile network." Bell installed some new technology over the summer and it appears to be making a difference with the latest smartphones with "speeds that simply blow U.S. carriers away."
A few ground rules need to be made known about these speed tests. For instance, the test was filtered to only show the results for Category 4 or higher LTE devices, which are capable of download speeds of 150Mbps. These findings were only for data speeds – not the networks call reliability, call quality or text delivery…all important factors in choosing a network. Speed is great, but reliability and quality are also play an important part of network satisfaction.
These tests were done using both Android and iOS devices using the classic Ookla's Speednet.net app and conducted between June 1 and September 14, 2015. They tested "Bell, Eastlink, Ice Wireless, MTS, Rogers, SaskTel, TBayTel, Telus, and Videotron in their home coverage areas only," but the team "ignored any roaming results, as well as results from Fido, Koodo, and Virgin." PCMag did remark that the sub-brands "performed similarly to their parent companies."
Even though Bell won the speed war this year, all of the Big Three were terribly close with Bell scoring an overall 97 with Rogers and Telus coming in second tied with a score of 94. Obviously from these test results we can tell that the Canadian carriers are building out a quality LTE network – especially LTE Advanced. Average download speeds for Bell were at 33.51Mbps, Rogers at 34.86Mbps and Telus, the slowest at 32.48Mbps. Regional carriers dominated in some cases – for instance, Eastlink was the best on the East Coast. Others, such as MTS in Manitoba and SaskTel in Saskatchewan were good, but still dominated by the Big Three. By sharing LTE networks with the Big Three, these regional carriers are offering some excellent performances.
The study also delves into the high cost of wireless in Canada with "residents of Ontario, BC and New Brunswick pay higher prices than those in provinces where there's effective competition." It is also hard to find affordable plans for heavy data users – "only MTS in Manitoba and SaskTel in Saskatchewan offer unlimited data." Expect to pay more in areas where there is no competition. For instance, "in Quebec, Bell's rates are often $15/month less than they are in Ontario, probably because of Videotron's competition." While the government is trying to give Wind Mobile a chance to compete, their speeds are around one-ten of the competition. However, wireless is constantly changing for the better and depends on tower location, network load, device being used and even the weather.