Canadian internet speeds nothing to brag about

07 Feb

Another international internet report is out and… well, we know the drill by now. This one is the regular State of the Internet Report from Akamai Technologies, the Massachusetts-based content delivery network. By dealing with two trillion requests daily for content through its network, the company says it is well positioned to judge speeds and access across various countries.

As usual, Canada didn’t fare too well in the latest numbers, which are for the third quarter of 2012. On the wired side, Canada averaged a download connection speed of 6.7 megabits per second, or good enough to tie with two others for 10th spot out of 54 countries. Before anyone gets to bragging about how that’s not such a bad showing, it’s worth noting that the report includes many countries in Africa, the Middle East and Latin America, where internet access is still pretty dreadful.

Canada fared worse in peak connection speeds, where its 27.2 megabits per second was enough to score 16th. Same goes for the percentage of internet subscribers that are on what Akamai calls “high broadband” plans, or those with speeds above 10 Mbps. Only 12 per cent of Canadians had such connections, which places the country 11th in the rankings and slightly above the global average of 11 per cent.

There was a bit of good news - Canada ranked seventh in the percentage of customers on plans with 4 Mbps or above, which is the threshold for what Akamai considers to be broadband.

Akamai doesn’t look at upload speeds, but other statistical reports show Canada to be even more woeful in this measure. Ookla’s Net Index, for example, has the country’s 2.6 Mbps well below the world average of 5 Mbps. Anecdotally, I just got back from a long working vacation in Nevada and Hawaii, where I was shocked to find upload speeds on generally crappy hotel wi-fi to still be superior to my own home connection, where I get a measly 1 Mbps.

Nevertheless, Canada really shines in the wireless department, according to Akamai, if by “shines” we mean “is terrible at.”

Of the 85 providers measured across 54 countries, the one (unnamed) Canadian provider placed 73rd in average connection speed, at only 1,068 kilobits per second. Worse still, “Only two mobile providers had average peak connection speeds below the 4 Mbps broadband threshold - Canadian provider … at 2.9 Mbps and South African provider … at 2.8 Mbps.”

There’s been no shortage of bragging from Canada’s wireless incumbents about how they have the world’s fastest and most modern LTE networks, so I wondered if Akamai might have counted one of the slower new entrants in its report. Not so, according to David Belson, the report’s editor:

I believe that the listed mobile carrier would be considered one of the incumbents, and it appears that they do offer LTE service as well… Having said that, the observed speeds do look surprisingly low, especially as compared to the US carriers. (But they are relatively in line with the speeds we’ve seen for that provider in the other 2013 reports.)

Anecdotally, here’s a speed test I just did on my LTE phone over Telus (note that the upload is ironically six times faster than my home cable connection, and how it’s better than 90 per cent of Canada):

If Akamai’s numbers are right, one conclusion that can be drawn is that not many Canadians are connecting over LTE and are instead still using slower 3G. If so, that makes it kind of weird to brag about a super-fast network when no one is actually using it.

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Posted by on February 7, 2013 in internet, mobile


2 Responses to Canadian internet speeds nothing to brag about

  1. Marc Venot

    February 7, 2013 at 12:08 am

    When you pay you get the speed. My bill has jumped to $115.33 per month to get 500GB with download at 50 Mbps, basic cable and line phone.

    • Nick S (@NBomb)

      February 7, 2013 at 9:31 am

      Marc, you’re right on an absolute level, but the thing is that people in other parts of the world are paying less ‘more’ to get same or better speeds.


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