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Fastest Mobile Networks Canada 2019

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Contents

  • Fastest Mobile Networks Canada 2019
  • Testing Methodology
  • The Best Wireless Plans in Canada
  • What About 5G?
  • Calgary/Edmonton
  • Montreal/Quebec
  • New Brunswick
  • Newfoundland
  • Nova Scotia
  • Ottawa/Eastern Ontario
  • Prince Edward Island
  • Regina/Saskatoon
  • Toronto/Southern Ontario
  • Vancouver/Victoria
  • Winnipeg

Who needs 5G? Not urban Canadians. In Canada's major cities, we are now seeing average LTE speeds that exceed what we're seeing on Sprint's new 5G network in the US, showing that 4G technologies still have plenty to give.

In our seventh annual Fastest Networks Canada test, we drove through all 10 Canadian provinces, hitting 29 major and smaller cities to test speed and coverage on Bell, Freedom, Rogers, Sasktel, Telus, and Videotron.

For the third year, Telus edged out Bell as the fastest nationwide network. We've now seen each of the three major carriers take the crown: first Rogers, then Bell, now Telus.

Telus keeps winning because it shares a lot of its spectrum and towers with Bell, giving the two carriers a massive amount of shared resources. On top of that, Telus has a highly optimized core network for routing connections through the internet, which seems to have made the critical difference in some of our cities.

National Results

FMN 2019 Canada National Scores

Peak speeds pretty much topped out last year, but average speeds have continued to increase. Nationwide, every carrier was at least 20 percent faster than it was last year, and we saw our first nationwide average speeds over 200Mbps.

Now, that's faster than anyone needs on their phones. But as always, speed is a proxy for capacity: More available speed on our test phones means more network capacity for a lot of people trying to watch Netflix at once.

While the difference between Bell and Telus is similar to last year's, there are many more ties in individual cities. I'm pretty sure that comes down more to a methodology change of ours than to a difference in performance. I go more into depth about that on our testing methodology page.

If you want to get those top speeds, it's important to use the latest flagship phone. We tested this year with the Samsung Galaxy S10, the fastest LTE phone currently available in Canada. Using Ookla Speedtest Intelligence crowdsourced data, we found the S10 to be a little less than 15 percent faster overall than the Galaxy S9 on Canadian LTE networks, and a good 30 percent faster than the Apple iPhone XS. (Note: Ookla is owned by Ziff Davis, PCMag.com's parent company.) So if you're living in a major city and you're frustrated with your network, upgrading your phone might be the solution.

Three Tiers of Canadian Carriers

Performance-wise, there are definitely three tiers of carriers at this point. Bell and Telus, which share many towers but operate their own core networks, are far ahead of their rivals on speed and capacity in most major cities. They're so far ahead, in fact, that I wouldn't be surprised if they start using some of their existing spectrum for 5G in the future; their band 7 urban spectrum, for instance, would work well with 5G.

Rogers and Sasktel are in the middle. Rogers says it prioritizes having a nationwide network with very consistent service. In the cities, it offers decent service that doesn't quite measure up to Bell or Telus. Sasktel actually runs most of the towers Bell and Telus operate on in Saskatchewan, so those three networks all have similar performance there.

Freedom and Eastlink bring up the rear. Freedom's speeds have been improving over the past few years—going from 39Mbps down to 57Mbps down on average is no mean feat—but what they've really been focused on is improving coverage, adding coverage in buildings in Southern Ontario and adding more cities in the West, most notably several cities on Vancouver Island.

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Eastlink is handicapped by its very limited spectrum allotment. While it's also been adding coverage in New Brunswick and Newfoundland, the download results we've seen from the carrier are the slowest of all.

FMN Canada Nationwide map

The Urban/Rural Divide

We have more advanced mapping tools this year, so we are able to pay more attention to what is happening outside the major cities. With speeds and coverage in urban Canada so good, the carriers' real challenges are out in the sticks. We found that speeds suffered in rural Ontario, New Brunswick, PEI, and Nova Scotia. In Newfoundland, well, the network situation is just weird. Turn to our summaries by area for more details.

The recent auction of 600MHz spectrum might help there. 600MHz is the lowest-frequency, longest-range spectrum that's ever been used for cellular in Canada. T-Mobile is leading the way with 600MHz in the US, which it has used to extend rural coverage. In this year's auction, most of the spoils went to Rogers, but all of the large players other than Bell got slices.

At 600MHz, 5G has no less coverage than 4G and about 30 percent better speed, so Rogers may use its new bounty to dramatically improve connectivity in the small-town and rural areas that really need it.

Take a look at the chart above for our national speed test winners, or click through for province-by-province results. When you're through, check out how different things are over in the US.

  • Apple iPhone XS

    Apple iPhone XS

    $ 999.00

    Pros: Excellent camera. Powerful processor. Fast networking. First mainstream dual-SIM phone in the US.

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    Cons: Expensive for the size and feature set.

    Bottom Line: The Apple iPhone XS is a significant step forward for iPhones, but most iPhone buyers will probably prefer the XR or the XS Max.

    Read Review

  • Samsung Galaxy S10

    Samsung Galaxy S10

    $ 899.99

    Pros: Great screen. Fastest possible processor and LTE. Triple cameras with 2x and wide-angle. Headphone jack and microSD card slot.

    Cons: Expensive. In-display fingerprint sensor has no physical guide.

    Bottom Line: The midsize Samsung Galaxy S10 has all the attractive features of the S10+ for less money, but we still think the smaller S10e is a better buy.

  • Samsung Galaxy S9

    Samsung Galaxy S9

    $ 720.00

    Pros: Promising low-light camera performance. Terrific network support. High-quality screen. Interesting AI photo modes. Elegant body.

    Cons: Not a radical change from the Galaxy S8. AR emoji need work.

    Bottom Line: The Samsung Galaxy S9 improves on the S8's camera and audio, and the S9+ adds dual cameras, but the phones aren't a huge step forward for Samsung.

    Read Review

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About the Author

Sascha Segan Sascha Segan Lead Analyst, Mobile

PCMag.com's lead mobile analyst, Sascha Segan, has reviewed hundreds of smartphones, tablets and other gadgets in more than 9 years with PCMag. He's the head of our Fastest Mobile Networks project, one of the hosts of the daily PCMag Live Web show and speaks frequently in mass media on cell-phone-related issues. His commentary has appeared on ABC, the BBC, the CBC, CNBC, CNN, Fox News, and in newspapers from San Antonio, Texas to Edmonton, Alberta.

Segan is also a multiple award-winning travel writer, having contributed to the Frommer's series of travel guides and Web sites for more than a decade. Other than his home town of New York, his favorite … See Full Bio

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