Global LTE wireless report from OpenSignal shows how Canada compares

How do Canada's high-speed mobile networks compare to the rest of the world in terms of speed and coverage? A new report on LTE in 69 different countries provides some insights.

SaskTel ties for fastest LTE network in the world, but other networks have much better coverage

Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton looks at a phone before a practice session of the Singapore F1 Grand Prix. Two Singapore carriers, SingTel and Starhub, tied with SaskTel for fastest mobile LTE network in the world in a new report from U.K.-based OpenSignal. (Edgar Su/Reuters)

Canada is home to one of the fastest LTE wireless networks in the world. And overall, the country ranks in the top 20 for both speed and coverage, a new global report shows.

The latest quarterly State of LTE report from U.K.-based OpenSignal used data from 357,924 Android phone users in 69 countries around the world during the last three months of last year. The company's app was used to randomly measure the users' download speeds and coverage — the amount of time an average user could connect to a high-speed LTE network rather than slower 3G networks.

Overall, Canada ranked 15th for speed, with an average download speed of 19 megabits per second (Mbps). That put it behind countries such as Singapore, Israel, Australia and Spain, but ahead of the U.K. and well ahead of the U.S., which had an average speed of just 10 Mbps. The average speed worldwide was 13.6 Mbps.

However, the U.S. did better than Canada with regard to coverage, allowing users to connect to an LTE signal 81 per cent of the time, compared with Canada's 72 per cent. Canada ranked 17th overall for coverage.

Streaming a movie trailer on a smartphone requires a good download speed. The new report ranks Canada 15th out of 69 countries with a download speed of 19 Mbps. (Carlo Alelgri/Reuters)

The report named Canada, the Netherlands and Hungary, as countries that do well on both coverage and speed, though not as well as South Korea's Olleh and Singapore's Singtel. The latter had average speeds that were more than double Canada's, along with coverage of at least 79 per cent.

OpenSignal also ranked 185 wireless carriers with enough user data to provide statistically significant average speeds and coverage.

SaskTel comes 1st and 145th

Canadian regional carrier SaskTel tied with Singapore's SingTel and StarHub as the fastest among 185 carriers, with an average download speed of 35 Mbps. While the two other carriers had faster measured speeds of 40 and 39 Mbps respectively, OpenSignal says that due to the margin of error it was a statistical tie.

However, SaskTel did poorly on coverage — users connected to LTE just 54 per cent of the time, putting it in 145th place worldwide. In comparison Bell, Telus, Vidéotron and Rogers all ranked favourably on coverage — connecting users to LTE 72 to 81 per cent of the time. OpenSignal recently released a report comparing just Canadian carriers.

OpenSignal says the average global speed of 13.6 Mbps is a full megabit higher than it was just three months earlier, and the number of ultrafast networks is exploding.

"A year ago, an average 4G speed of 20 Mbps would have been a truly impressive feat, but today there are 15 countries and 52 individual networks that meet or exceed that mark," the report said.

It credits the deployment of new networks in some countries and added capacity in countries such as Singapore, South, Korea, Denmark, Hungary and Australia, which are adding a wider range of frequencies to their networks.

OpenSignal says the average global speed of 13.6 Mbps is a full megabit higher than it was just three months earlier. It credits the deployment of new networks in some countries and growing capacity in others that are adding a wider range of frequencies to their networks.

The report also noted that many early adopters of LTE, such as the U.S., Japan and Sweden, "have clearly lost their edge in speed" due to lack of spectrum, lack of technological innovation, or network oversubscription.

OpenSignal's data is gathered by an Android app that automatically measures a user's download speed during the course of normal use, while the screen is on. While the app, designed to help point users to a stronger wireless signal, is available for iOS, data from the iOS version was not used in this report.

Because the app measures speeds at random times wherever the user happens to be, the measured speeds may be slower than speeds measured by other companies such as Ookla that use other methods. They're also slower than maximum LTE speeds advertised by many Canadian carriers of up to 150 Mbps. Users usually don't get those speeds because their connection is slowed by factors such as whether they are indoors or outdoors and the number of other people connecting to the same cell tower.

While Canada scored well on both coverage and speed overall, other reports have noted that wireless prices in Canada are among the highest in the world and have been rising.


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