The Canadian cell phone market has been shared for decades between the 3 main providers: Bell, Telus and Rogers. However, as time goes by, things seem to be changing. This study dives into the cell phone carriers' market changes over the past 5 years, analyzing the big 3 providers' numbers but also the smaller ones, nationwide and per province, as well as the smartphone penetration across the different parts of the country.
Here are the key findings of this study:
- The big 3 phone service providers (Bell, Telus, Rogers) market shares have gone down from 90.4% in 2015 to 87.8% in 2020
- There have been 3.6 million more cell phone users in Canada in 2020 than in 2015
- Even though their number of subscribers has kept growing, Rogers (- 0.5%), Bell (-0,3%) and Telus (- 1.8%) have all lost market share between 2015 and 2020
- Freedom Mobile (Wind) is the provider that has most increased its market share in recent years: 5.8% in 2020 compared to 3.2% five years before
- Rogers is the company that gained the most subscribers between 2015 and 2020: + 1.1 million, ahead of Freedom Mobile (+ 982,543 users)
- Bell is still the major phone services provider in 9 provinces and territories in Canada in terms of subscriber numbers
- Saskatchewan is the only province where none of the big 3 companies are the major phone services provider, the latter being SaskTel
- With a 77% smartphone ownership rate, Quebec is the Canadian province where the least people are equipped with that kind of device (86.1% nationwide)
- On the other hand, with 93.4% of its population owning a smartphone, Alberta has the highest rate in Canada - also having the lowest landline phone ownership rate in the country (65.2%)
- New Brunswick is the province where landline phones persist the most: 84.1% of its inhabitants still have one (71.9% nationwide)
- New Brunswick is the only remaining province in Canada where there are more landline phone owners than smartphone owners: 84.1% vs. 82.8%.
The small cell phone providers’ market share reached 12.2% in 2020 in Canada (9.6% in 2015)
In 2020, there is no doubt: the big 3 cell phone carriers still hold the vast majority of market share in Canada: 87.8% in total. However, since 2015, they are steadily losing ground in front of new players that are winning over more and more people.
As we can see on the below graph:
- The number of cell phone users increased from 29.4 million in 2015 to 33 million in 2020 (meaning 3.6 million more users in 5 years)
- All the providers gained subscribers during these 5 years. However, the small providers' market share has steadily increased, from 9.6% in 2015 to 12.2% in 2020
- Rogers is still the phone services provider that has gained the most users in Canada (+ 1.06 million between 2015 and 2020), just ahead of Freedom Mobile (0.98 million) and Bell (0.92 million).
Source: CRTC, Government of Canada
Having a look at “small” phone services providers: Freedom Mobile and Videotron are gaining market share, SaskTel steady
Can the "small" players shake up the cell phone carriers market in Canada? As said above, their market share is steadily increasing year after year, reaching more than 12% in 2020. As shown in the graph below, this trend mainly concerns two players:
- Freedom Mobile is now a strong 4th player in the Canadian phone services market, with almost 6% market share representing 1.9 million subscribers across the country. Between 2015 and 2020, the number of Freedom mobile subscribers increased by almost 105%, passing from 0.94 million in 2015 to 1.9 million in 2020.
- The same progression applied to Videotron, with market shares passing from 2.62% to 4.48% between 2015 and 2020, and a 92.7% increase in subscribers during the same years
- Among those "small players", only SaskTel has lost market share overall, with a steady but loyal number of subscribers concentrated in Saskatchewan - around 618,000.
Source: CRTC, Government of Canada
In 2020, Bell is still the major cell phone carrier in 9 out of 13 Canadian provinces and territories
A close look at phone services providers' market shares per province shows that the big 3 companies all have provinces where they are better installed than others. We can observe on the below map that :
- Montreal-based Bell is the phone services provider that has the broadest coverage nationwide, being the major industry player in 9 out of 13 provinces and territories in Canada. The company is particularly well installed in the Eastern provinces (Atlantic and Quebec) and in the Northern territories.
- With its headquarters in Toronto, Rogers is only dominant in the Ontarian market, where the company owns 46% of the market share. Thanks to this solid position in Ontario, Rogers is the cell phone provider with the most subscribers in all of Canada.
- It is not a surprise to see Burnaby-based Telus prevailing in the West, holding most market shares in BC (41%) and Alberta (52%).
Source: CRTC, Government of Canada
On this map, Saskatchewan remains an exception in Canada, with Crown-owned firm SaskTel still holding more than 50% of the market share in the province.
Alberta is the province where smartphone penetration is the highest: 93.4%
As we have seen before, the number of cell phone subscribers increases every year, due to the fact that more and more people are equipped with the proper devices (mostly smartphones) to benefit from those kinds of services. Actually, we can see that in 2020, 9 out of 10 provinces in Canada have more smartphone users than landline phone users.
But there are provinces that resist this trend more than others, as shown on the chart below:
- With a 93.4% smartphone ownership rate, Alberta is the province where people are the most equipped in Canada regarding this kind of device. This is also the province where the landline phone ownership rate is the lowest: "only" 65.2%
- Then follow Saskatchewan, with 91.1% of people owning a smartphone, BC (88.5%) and Ontario (88.1%)
- On the opposite, Quebec is by far the Canadian province where smartphones have less penetrated: "only" 79% of Quebecers own this kind of device- 7 points down from the national average rate of 86.1%
- New Brunswick remains the only province in Canada where people still own more landline phones than smart ones: 84.1% vs. 82.8%, making it the place where the "old" phones resist the most.
Source: Statistics Canada
The smartphone penetration rate is expected to grow to 88.2% by 2025 in Canada. By that time, there should be around 33 million smartphone users across the country.
This report is based on public data provided by the Canadian government. For further information on our editorial guidelines please click here.
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