Investments in Telecommunications Delivering Positive Outcomes for Canadians: Ghiz
Robert Ghiz, Canadian Telecommunications Association President & CEO
***Check Against Delivery***
International Institute of Communications – Canadian Chapter: 2023 Annual Conference
Tuesday, May 16, 2023
12:05 to 12:15 p.m. Eastern
Thank you all for inviting me to join you today.
Before I begin, I’d also like to thank and congratulate IIC Canada’s President, Grant Buchanan, and the whole IIC Canada Board for yet another remarkable event.
Merci de m’avoir invité à me joindre à vous aujourd’hui.
Avant d’entrer dans le vif du sujet, je voudrais remercier et féliciter le président d’IIC Canada, Grant Buchanan, ainsi que les membres du conseil de l’organisation d’avoir encore une fois organisé un événement aussi remarquable.
As always, this year’s IIC Canada annual conference reflects the dynamic regulatory landscape, and the key challenges that Canadian – and global – regulators are currently grappling with. The topics we discuss at this conference each year continue to evolve. The prominence of AI on this year’s agenda is just one example.
That’s why I’m here to talk to you today about our recent evolution at the newly rebranded Canadian Telecommunications Association, formerly CWTA.
Je vais vous parler aujourd’hui de la transformation que vient de vivre l’Association canadienne des télécommunications, autrefois connue sous le nom d’ACTS.
Who we represent
Just as before, our association represents the service providers, equipment manufacturers, and other organizations in the telecommunications ecosystem, that invest in, build, maintain and operate Canada’s world-class telecommunications networks.
Our members and associates include some of Canada’s largest employers, as well as small wireless construction companies with less than 20 employees.
The one thing they all have in common is they are all working towards the same goal: to build a better future for Canadians through connectivity.
New Name. New Brand. New Identity.
As some of you may have seen, we recently dropped the word “wireless” from our former name and we are now the Canadian Telecommunications Association.
Our new name reflects an expanded role for our organization, to promote the importance of both wireless and wireline telecommunications to Canada’s economic growth and social development, and the crucial role of ongoing investments by facilities-based service providers in delivering world-class internet and mobile-wireless services to Canadians.
Why rebrand? I’m sure some of you may be asking this question.
Telecommunications has traditionally been thought of as two distinct services: wireless and wireline. But new technologies and expanding consumer demands have obscured some of the differences between the capabilities and use of wired and wireless services.
Canadians expect faster and more reliable internet connections whether at home, at work, or on the go. To meet this demand, Canadian facilities-based service providers are investing billions of dollars each year to expand and upgrade their networks to create a more seamless experience for customers.
Canada’s future depends on connectivity, through both wireless and wireline networks, and so it was clear we should expand our focus beyond wireless.
And with this in mind I’d like to provide a brief overview of what has been accomplished in both wireless and wireline in Canada.
Delivering Positive Outcomes
When I attend conferences such as this one, the focus is rightfully on the future, and what future work must be done. And there is still more to be done to connect all Canadians.
But it is also important to look at what has been accomplished, and how we got here.
Despite Canada’s vast landscape and low population density, the telecommunications industry has been delivering increasingly positive outcomes for Canadians in terms of coverage, quality, and affordability. I’d like to take a minute or two to quickly highlight these accomplishments.
When it comes to mobile wireless coverage, 99.7% of Canadians have access to mobile wireless services. There is more work to do in First Nations Reserves, and major roads and highways, but we have seen large increases in coverage in these areas in the last few years and new projects are underway. According to the CRTC we are on track to reach 100% by 2026.
When it comes to the urban-rural divide, investments in 5G are already paying off. Thanks in part to 5G deployments, as well as our superior 4G networks, Canadians in rural areas experience faster speeds than in countries such as the U.S., Australia, Germany and Brazil.
When it comes to high-speed broadband, or home internet, 93.5% of Canadian households have access to service that meets the government’s 50-10 unlimited objective. Rural coverage meeting this objective has increased by over 52% from 2018-2021 and there are many new projects to expand or upgrade services underway.
But more work needs to be done in that area. When we talk about the 93.5%, we need to point out that only 50% of rural and remote areas, and about 48% of the Indigenous communities are connected. That’s what investment is so important so that all Canadians can get connected.
With regards to quality, according to PwC, when considering network speed, availability, and video experience, Canada’s mobile networks are superior to those in other G7 countries plus Australia, with a significant superiority in quality compared to countries like the UK and U.S.
When we look at high-speed broadband in Canada, we find that our networks are nearly 63% faster than the G20 average and almost 90% faster than the global median. This is partly because more Canadian households have access to 100 megabit per second and gigabit per second speeds than in countries like Australia, the UK, France and Italy.
Let’s talk about affordability. I know it doesn’t get the same headlines as other stories, but wireless prices have been declining significantly over the years. For example, looking back from April 2022 you will find that the price of a 5GB plan had declined by 44% over five years. And less than two weeks ago we saw the price of an entry level 5G wireless plan, with 25GB of high-speed data, drop by 35%.
The decline in wireless prices is even more impressive when you consider that Canadians are paying more for almost everything else, according to StatsCan’s all-items CPI versus the Cellular Services Price Index. And while there is always a lot of talk about prices in Canada vs other countries, when it comes to wireless prices, ISED’s latest price comparison study shows that prices in Canada are lower than in the United States.
And as we have seen, the quality of services in Canada is superior.
On the home internet side, again we see that prices have declined over the last two years while the All-items CPI has increased by over 11%.
Despite the decline in prices, we know there are Canadian households who cannot afford internet access services.
While in some countries, such as the United States, governments are handing out billions of dollars in subsidizes to help pay for internet access and mobile services, it is the telecom industry in Canada that is leading the way. Canadian ISPs are providing low-cost internet services, as low as $10 a month, to thousands of low-income families and seniors.
In addition to the positive outcomes I’ve just mentioned, the economic contributions of our sector should also be noted:
- $75 billion in direct GDP contribution.
- Over 650,000 jobs supported across industries.
- Investing more than our international peers in expanding and enhancing our world-class networks.
- Being among the largest private sector spenders on R&D and innovation in Canada.
None of these accomplishments would have been made without the investments of the facilities-based carriers who took on the risk of building networks across the vast and challenging landscape of our country.
And as we have heard over the last two days, there is more work to be done. This work will require continued investment by our facilities-based service providers.
As CRTC Chairperson Eatrides referenced in her remarks yesterday, we need to ensure that the regulatory framework in Canada achieves the right balance that will expand on these positive outcomes of coverage, quality and affordability, and creates the conditions that allow businesses to continue to invest and innovate.
I know I’m running short on time so I will wrap things up.
To conclude, I’ll say this: if we want to remain a world leader in telecommunications; if we want to connect all Canadians, especially those Canadians that do not have access right now; if we want to be a world-leader in 5G so we can lead the world in innovation, we need a regulatory environment that encourages facilities-based investment.
Now that the dust has settled and we have four national service providers and regional players across our country, we are in a tremendous position to be able to not only continue being a world leader, but to be more of a world leader, as long as we continue to encourage investment across our country.
Thank you very much for your time today.