Canada trailing behind in 5G experience, Opensignal blames insufficient mid-band spectrum

According to a new Opensignal report, Canada has one of the fastest average 4G download speeds, taking on European markets like Denmark, the Netherlands and Norway. But when it comes to 5G download speed, Canada is lagging behind.

Specifically, Canada has a 5G spectrum capacity of 47.1 MHz, resulting in 5G download speeds of 146.4 Mbps. This is significantly below the average 5G download speeds seen in markets such as South Korea, Denmark and Israel.

Source: Opensignal

Speaking at the Canadian Telecom Summit, Ceri Howes, vice president of government and external affairs, Opensignal, explained that Canada has some of the best availability and fastest speeds in the world on 4G, which she noted, is due to the spectrum policy and amount of spectrum made available for those deployments.

But Canada has a long way to go on 5G, especially in terms of spectrum, she contended.

The use of smaller 5G spectrum bandwidths might be responsible, the report noted, along with a relatively low share of the 3.5GHz mid-band used for 5G connections.

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) auctioned the 3.5GHz band in 2021, where Bell, Rogers and Telus splashed out billions to win the majority of the licenses.

The government, however, assigned a low amount of spectrum (200MHz) in the 3.45-3.65GHz frequency range during that auction, and set aside up to 50MHz for smaller regional operators, Opensignal said. This limited access to the 3.5GHz spectrum assets for the biggest players like Bell, Rogers and Telus.

Canadian operators are therefore forced to re-use existing 4G spectrum for 5G services. As a matter of fact, only 27.7 per cent of Opensignal 5G readings in Canada are on the 3.5GHz band, which is one of the lowest results across the countries documented.

Additionally, only 1.8 per cent of Opensignal’s 5G readings used more than 100 MHz in Canada, while more than half of the 5G readings see the use of 50 MHZ or less spectrum bandwidth.

This is critical, as the use more than 50MHz and up to 100MHz contributes to 34.5 per cent faster 5G download speed, Opensignal affirmed.

“Canada is very much at a crunch point here. I do hope with 3.8GHz, that does improve. But obviously, globally speaking, anytime you see a spectrum auction as a cash cow – that is generally passed down to consumers,” stated Howes. “So I would very much urge the government in Canada to see spectrum as a way to really enable accessibility rather than just a means to an end, in terms of the financial aspect of it.”

The CRTC is currently holding the third auction focusing on 5G for the 3.8GHz mid-band spectrum.

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Ashee Pamma
Ashee Pamma
Ashee is a writer for ITWC. She completed her degree in Communication and Media Studies at Carleton University in Ottawa. She hopes to become a columnist after further studies in Journalism. You can email her at [email protected]

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