Canadian Telecoms Make the Most Money on Mobile Data in the World

Is it any surprise that Canadians have some of the lowest rates of mobile data usage globally?

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Jul 12 2018, 5:24pm

Image: Shutterstock

Unfortunately for Canadians, the evidence just keeps piling up that compared to the rest of the world, they’re getting a raw deal on data.

Canadians have some of the lowest mobile data usage in the world, and the slowest uptake for data usage—but telecoms in the country make the highest profits for data plans, according to a new report.

Telecom analysis firm Tefficient looked at data usage per SIM card (i.e., per individual phone) across 36 countries in 2017 and found that people in just five countries use less data than Canadians: Greece, Portugal, Germany, Belgium, and the Czech Republic. Canadians on average used just 1.3 GB of mobile data per month in 2017. Even worse, data usage in Canada grew just six percent last year—the lowest rate of growth in the world, according to Tefficient’s report.

US operators also extract a high rate of profit per gigabyte used, but less than Canadian telecoms, according to the report. Americans also used more data per month: 3.3 GB on average.

Chart: Tefficient

Countries where telecoms made less revenue per gigabyte of mobile data had more mobile data usage and higher uptake—telecoms in India, for example, made the lowest revenue per gigabyte and the country had a 300 percent growth in data usage last year. According to Tefficient, telecoms in Canada make 35 times more profit on data than Indian telecoms.

A winning strategy for telecoms is to be more generous with data plans and accept a mid-range of revenue per gigabyte of data used, the report suggests.

But that’s unlikely to happen. Canada’s telecom industry is notoriously moribund, with just three established players making up a kind of oligopoly that account for the vast majority of mobile subscriptions in the country—Rogers, Bell Canada, and Telus. It’s one of Canada’s many curious ironies that a company headquartered in Toronto runs a successful affordable mobile phone service in the US—Ting by Tucows—but has thus far been unable to operate in its home country.

When reached for comment, spokespeople for Rogers and Bell Canada directed Motherboard to the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Organization.

"The report make comparisons using data from different sources that use different methodologies," said a CTWO spokesperson. "This calls into question its conclusions, which appear to understate data usage and overstate revenues per GB in Canada, but it is also important to note when speaking about revenues, according to the OECD, Canada leads among all G7 countries in investment as a percentage of revenue and is the fourth highest among all OECD nations."

Spokespeople for Telus were not immediately available.

It’s this lack of choice, and the high prices Canadians pay for data, that makes hating on telecoms a third national sport behind hockey and lacrosse.

This story has been updated to include a comment from CTWO.

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