Technology leadership is critical for Canada
Canada has a well-earned reputation for athletic prowess on the ice, extraordinary natural beauty and an appreciation for the power of diversity. What many people do not know about us, however, is that we are a global wireless powerhouse, with our country home to award-winning wireless network technology that is near-ubiquitous, reaching 99 per cent of our population.
Technology leadership matters because it enables the diversity and competitiveness of our private sector, supporting economic growth and job creation for our nation. It matters because it helps us answer society’s most pressing social challenges in health, education and the environment, while improving economic equality in our digital world.
Simply put, our technology leadership and the investment and talent that underpin it, drive our country’s innovation agenda and the resulting economic and social outcomes this yields.
Canada is perpetually on the podium
Our country has been repeatedly recognized as having the fastest wireless networks in the world. According to mobile user results collected by UK-based Opensignal, networks in Canada are just plain faster than our peers in Europe. Moreover, as confirmed by U.S.-based Ookla in its 2019 Speedtest Global Index, they are twice as fast as the wireless networks enjoyed in the United States. Furthermore, in its 2019 Fastest Mobile Networks Canada report, PCMag validated that Canada's major cities provide average LTE speeds that exceed those recorded on the 5G network of U.S.-based carrier, Sprint. Considering the population densities of Europe and the U.S. are 30 and nine times greater than Canada, respectively, it is remarkable that Canadians have access to superior technology that connects us to the people, resources and information that make our lives better.
Importantly, it’s not just our cities that are benefiting from our network leadership. In its 2019 report titled, The state of rural Canada’s Mobile Network Experience, Opensignal indicated that if rural Canada were a country, it would rank an extraordinary 12th in the world. Surprisingly, the U.S. ranked 30th, globally; while rural Canada was faster than every urban market in America.
Rural or urban, Canada, with its 10 million square kilometres, has the second fastest wireless network in the world, behind only South Korea (by a small margin) – a country that is 1/100th the size of Canada and has already deployed widely 5G technology. Impressively, the superiority of our country’s networks is rivalled only by our pervasive coverage and reliability.
Not an easy country to build infrastructure and deploy technology
Notably, these world-leading networks have been accomplished despite the material cost challenges associated with deploying technology and infrastructure across our national landscape. Canadian carriers operate in one of the highest-cost regions in the world, due to our vast geography, challenging topography and climate, relatively high labour costs and significant diseconomies of scale, given our small population size. Moreover, Canadian carriers pay twice as much to the government for spectrum as compared to the United States and we purchase our devices and network equipment in U.S. dollars with the inherent foreign exchange risks.
Canada’s sheer size and dispersed population mean that we have to invest in more expansive networks to bridge time and distance, to fuel sustainable innovation, and to put us on equal footing with G7 peers who enjoy greater scale economies. In this regard, according to successive reports from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Canada regularly has the highest per capita investment in network infrastructure in the world. This is remarkable, particularly in that this has occurred without government funding and through the strategic investments of publicly traded enterprises.
Our award-winning wireless networks are strengthened by globally unmatched fibre infrastructure that not only provides world-leading performance for Canadians at home, but also creates the backbone for a 5G-enabled wireless world by leveraging the incredible capacity of fibre in concert with the speed and reliability of Canada’s superior LTE networks.
In support of this data-rich world, last year, TELUS increased our fibre subscriptions by 36 per cent, exceeding the OECD average by nearly threefold. Moreover, at the end of 2019, TELUS had 50 per cent of total fixed broadband on fibre, approximately twice the average of OECD countries. These investments mean we can cost-effectively support the advent of 5G, while driving innovation in education and healthcare and fuelling economic growth for generations to come. Combined with the emerging artificial intelligence economy, this new ecosystem will power our smart homes, vehicles, businesses and intelligent cities, as well as the applications, devices and services that improve health and educational outcomes, support environmental sustainability, enable our entrepreneurial spirit and unleash human productivity.
It’s our Canadian talent that has made the difference
Our globally leading network technology has come to fruition thanks to the skill and ingenuity of our country’s exceptional talent, including the engineers, computer and data scientists, and technologists educated at our nation’s universities. As Canadians, we should be proud of the extraordinary achievements of our fellow citizens who have created these networks. Indeed, it is the magic of these wireless networks that bring your smartphone to life; otherwise it is little more than a paperweight. It is our world-leading networks, with their inherent speed and expansive coverage that help people live better lives and keep us all connected to what matters most.
An inconvenient truth: wireless pricing in Canada compares favourably with our global peers
These positive outcomes are further enabled through wireless service that is amongst the most accessible on a global basis. For example, the PwC Pricing Index – which compares unlimited plans across speed, access, data quality and cost – ranks Canadian unlimited data plans best in the G7 in terms of value, on average. These plans are expected to further increase the affordability of wireless services by 6 per cent by the end of 2020. Similarly, a March report issued by the CTIA, a U.S.-based wireless industry trade association, ranks Canada highest in terms of overall value proposition of wireless services as compared to the rest of the G7 and Australia. Furthermore, the Economist recently recognized Canada as being no. 1 in affordability out of 100 countries across the globe.
Enabling our digital economy to drive Canada’s competitiveness and create skilled jobs
We cannot have a vibrant private sector without powerful, world-leading network technology and robust infrastructure that is widely dispersed. Indeed, the advantage our country’s networks offer Canadians cannot be overstated. We are able to provide start-ups and small businesses, no matter where they are located, with access to the same internet speeds, functionality, connectivity, reliability and security that large enterprises enjoy. Moreover, we are connecting young people to the enormous educational opportunities surfaced by our digital nation. This nurtures a dynamic workforce, fostering Canada’s human capital and ensuring our country continues to attract new industries and innovators, supporting the jobs of today and those that have yet to be imagined.
It is not just our networks that are enabling our collective success. Canadian communications companies are fueling our economy through family-supporting jobs and significant investment in our communities. Notably, our industry directly employs 350,000 team members and millions more indirectly, and contributes $50-billion to our country’s economy each year – 2.5 per cent of our nation’s gross domestic product (GDP). Importantly, our industry’s investment in 5G will offer a $40-billion uplift to Canada’s GDP within five years while simultaneously enabling another 250,000 permanent, skilled jobs.
Enabling our digital society to empower underserved Canadians
Perhaps most meaningfully, our network superiority is enabling a truly human connection. Our TELUS team is guided by the passionate social purpose that underpins our global leadership in social capitalism. We know that technology is the great equalizer, but only if we all have access to it equally, which is why we are committed to leveraging our world-leading technology to enable remarkable human outcomes.
Indeed, unequal access to technology is exacerbating the unacceptable social barriers facing Canadians: 40 per cent of low-income families lack consistent Internet access, putting kids at risk of falling behind in school; 350,000 young people are in government care, often experiencing an isolating transition into adulthood, unable to participate in our digital world; and 30,000 Canadians are homeless on any given night, many disconnected from the basic right to healthcare. TELUS’ Connecting for Good initiatives are helping some of our most vulnerable populations succeed in our digital society through TELUS-subsidized access to the powerful technologies that support the success of Canadians at risk of being left behind in our digital society.
Our TELUS Internet for Good and Connecting Families programs have provided 39,000 Canadians from low-income families access to low-cost, high-speed internet, a computer, and training and tools to participate safely in our digital world. Internet for Good has provided peace of mind to Vancouver moms like Reeva Connolly and her neighbour Jessica Taylor, who are now able to offer their children the same access to digital resources as their classmates, as well as the ability to connect with family and friends using social sites. We will not rest until we reach every one of the 40 per cent of families in Canada who lack consistent internet and access to digital resources and educational information.
TELUS Mobility for Good has enabled 3,900 youth aging out of foster care to gain their independence while staying connected with a free cell phone and data plan. For Brittany Milla, who spent her youth in the child welfare system, Mobility for Good has provided her with the means to reconnect with her younger brother and manage her obligations as a Youth Ambassador for the Children’s Aid and as a student at Wilfrid Laurier University – on her way to becoming a social worker. We will not rest until every one of the 350,000 young people currently in government care is able to begin their independent life feeling safer, more connected, and better prepared for their future.
Finally, our TELUS Health for Good mobile clinics have provided necessary medical care, including electronic health records, to 22,000 Canadians living on the streets. From handing an aspirin to a homeless young man suffering from a persistent toothache, to offering treatment and support to the many victims of our opioid crisis, nurses in TELUS Health mobile clinics across the country, like Maude Blanchette Lamothe, are addressing an immediate need while re-connecting thousands of Canadians into our health system. We will not rest until all 35,000 of these at-risk Canadians have access to the health and social care they need and deserve, including vital support for mental health. I am positive that the “universal” in healthcare is supposed to mean all of our citizens, not just those of us lucky enough to have an address.
Creating a friendly future for all
Despite the many challenges inherent in our national circumstances, our country’s technology leadership is enabling Canadians, in cities big and small, to thrive in our digital world. Thanks to the incredible efforts of the hundreds of thousands of Canadians who work passionately each and every day to build, maintain and evolve our infrastructure, in concert with the significant investments being made in our country, we are connecting our citizens to the vital opportunities that underpin our social, educational and economic success, ensuring a friendly future for all. As your fellow Canadian, I could not be more proud of the world leadership they have achieved for our country.
Darren Entwistle is the president and chief executive officer of Telus Corp.
Advertising feature produced by TELUS. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved.